I had an email through the week from a thirty-something mum looking down the barrel of kidney failure and dialysis over the next couple of years. In addition to coming to terms with the illness that is causing her problems, she needed some practical information about the finances of treatment.
“What is the cost !! of both Dialysis and a transplant (should I be lucky enough)?”
Like everything else that happens as we move down this path, we tend to learn about it when we need to know, but with the BigD, it’s not easy to find answers.
The Costs of Dialysis
In the private system, each health fund tends to negotiate a payment per haemodialysis treatment with each dialysis centre or company. For example, health fund A may have agreed to pay Diaverum centres $220 per session, while health fund B may pay Baxter $190 per session. As long as you have the cover, you get the treatment. However, many health insurers limit the number of treatments to three per week. Others will allow more, but only on your doctor’s recommendation/request.
The best thing to do is to contact the centre(s) you may be attending and ask them. Then confirm your cover, etc with your health fund. In each case, you are not usually out of pocket. It is also worthwhile asking about the extras that the centre provides (food, TV, internet, etc).
Obviously, if you go to a satellite centre associated with a public hospital, treatment is free. Or if you choose to dialyse at home (or you live far away from dialysis centres) the government covers the costs, including the machine, its installation, plumbing, etc and your training.
The Cost of a Kidney Transplant
With kidney transplants, costs vary per country, and are in the tens of thousands of dollars (or pounds or rand, etc.) But in most cases they are done at public hospitals and the cost is covered by the national government. In the US, kidney transplants are covered by Medicare; in the UK by the National Health Service, in Australia by Medicare, etc. The cost is roughly equivalent to the cost of dialysis for a year, so a successful transplant is a good deal for health authorities.
You can also have a transplant via the private system is you have the coverage (or the money).
I had mine at a public hospital, The Austin Hospital in Heidelberg, Melbourne. I much prefer the public system, and not just because of the price. In the public system, the support network is wide. You and your transplant team can tap into the latest skills and experience from transplant teams around the country and the world. Medical staff are available onsite most of the time and the higher volume of transplants means they have seen most problems before. My transplant teams stopped at nothing in getting my transplants working, and the care was excellent.
Also, many public hospitals are happy for you to elect to be a private patient within the public system, in which case you get your choice of doctor with the added benefits listed above and costs are usually rebate only.
(So, in most countries, it’s not the cost that’s the problem, rather the availability of donor kidneys – but that’s another post.)
Next week: some of the stats of the BigD: how many, what demographics, life expectancy, etc.