The cost of a lung transplant varies according to whether it’s a single-lung or double-lung transplant, how much hospital care the patient requires, and how much the particular hospital and doctors charge for care. Many types of private insurance and state health plans provide coverage for at least some lung transplant medical expenses, but may not cover all of the related costs.
In 2007, the average cost for a single-lung transplant was nearly $400,000, according to the online resource Transplant Living. The average cost for a double-lung transplant, in which both of the patient’s original lungs are replaced with donor lungs, was about $550,000. For a heart-lung transplant, involving the transplant of both a donor heart and a single lung, the average cost was about $875,000.
The total cost of a lung transplant includes several types of expenses, such as diagnostic tests, the costs of procuring and transporting donor organs, fees for the surgeon and the anesthesiologist, pre- and post-operative hospital care (including time spent in the intensive care unit, or ICU), and fees for prescription drugs. For example, the total cost of a single-lung transplant includes about $20,000 in evaluation fees, $41,000 to obtain and prepare a donor lung, $33,000 in physician’s fees and $210,000 for the cost of the hospital stay. It also includes about $65,000 for follow-up care and $30,000 for immunosuppressive medications. All of these expenses may vary according to the particular medical provider, and the length of the hospital stay.
In addition to the initial costs of lung transplant surgery, patients also incur annual costs for follow-up care and prescription medications. The immunosuppressive drugs, which are required on an on-going basis to prevent the transplant recipient’s body from rejecting the donor lung or lungs, can cost up to $30,000 per year. Lung transplant recipients also incur the cost of follow-up doctor’s visits and tests to make sure the transplant is working correctly, and to continue to treat any related or underlying health conditions.
Besides the substantial medical cost of receiving a lung transplant, patients may also be faced with related expenses, such as travel. Not all hospital provide the specialized care that lung transplants require, so in many cases patients must travel to one that does. Depending on how far away from home the hospital is located, transplant recipients may have to pay for airline tickets, as well as food and housing for family members who want to be near the hospital while the patient recovers. Transplant recipients may also have to take unpaid medical leave from work and pay for extra child care during their surgery and recovery.
The medical costs of lung transplants, including the fees for the doctor, exams, donor lung preparation, hospital stay and prescription medications, may be at least partially covered by private or government-sponsored health insurance. Most companies require the transplants occur at approved hospitals, and exclude transplant costs related to a preexisting health condition. Some insurance policies also have a maximum benefit on transplant coverage, while others simply require patients to pay the cost of co-payments and deductibles. Insurance companies generally do not cover non-medical transplant costs, such as travel, but Transplant Living, linked below, offers a list of non-profit organizations that may provide assistance with these expenses.