Heart transplants are costly procedures that involve a great deal of specialized care, as well as time in the hospital. The cost of a heart transplant may vary according to the hospital providing the transplant, the area of the country the operation takes place in, and the status of the patient’s health.
According to Transplant Living, the average total cost of a single heart transplant in 2007 was $658,800. This figure includes the cost of obtaining a donor heart, at an average of nearly $90,000, about $23,000 in evaluation fees, $40,000 for doctor’s fees, $383,000 in hospital costs, $93,000 in post-operative care, and over $29,000 for immunosuppressive prescription medications. Transplants that involved both a heart and a lung cost an average of $874,800, while heart and kidney combination transplants cost an average of $758,700.
A heart transplant usually involves a number of separate costs, each of which may vary according to the medical provider. In addition to the surgeon’s fees, there may be fees from the anesthesiologist, the use of the operating room and equipment, the pre- and post-operation tests, the post-transplant therapy, as well as medications. The transplant fees also generally include the cost of locating, preparing and transporting the donor heart. One of the largest costs can be the hospital stay before and after the transplant, particularly for time spent in the ICU, which requires specialized equipment and nursing staff.
Although many patients may only consider the initial cost of a heart transplant, patients must receive follow-up care and continue to take immunosuppressive drugs in the years following the transplant in order to keep the new heart working properly. This follow-up care costs about $21,000 each year, but may be higher or lower depending on the cost of the particular medication, the cardiologist’s fees, the number of tests required, the cost of treating any complications that arise, and the patient’s overall health.
In addition to medical costs, heart transplant recipients who have to travel to reach a transplant facility may also incur travel costs for themselves and their families. Since transplants are not available at all hospitals, in some cases, a family may need to relocate for a extended period of time and pay for housing costs as well as transportation. Heart transplant recipients may also incur lost income if they are unable to continue working during their preparation and recovery.
Many private health insurance companies cover many of the costs associated with heart transplants, including fees for the surgery, donor heart, medications and hospital stay. Medicare may also pay for heart transplants performed at approved facilities. Even with insurance, the patient may still be responsible for co-payments, deductibles and non-medical costs such as travel expenses. Many non-profit organizations provide financial assistance for heart transplant recipients who do not have insurance, or who do not have enough money to cover their medical or travel costs. Transplant Living, linked below, offers a list of these resources.