How Much Does A Heart Transplant Cost?

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Treating heart conditions can be costly. There are usually lots and lots of expenses in the months—or in some cases, years—before the actual transplant.

But what does it all add up to?

This post—part one in a series on handling the financial side of heart transplant—breaks down some of the expenses, from the obvious—medical bills—to the less obvious—lost wages when parents take off work.

Knowing how the costs break down can help you craft a plan for covering these expenses when all is said and done.

Medical Costs

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The cost of medication alone can surpass $2,500 each month, according to Transplant Living, part of the United Network for Organ Sharing.

But what about the actual transplant? The cost of a heart transplant in the US in 2011 was almost $1 million.

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This only includes the pre-transplant treatment received in the month before transplant. But most people require treatment for longer than that while they’re on the waiting list for a new heart.

Before you start to panic, keep in mind that these numbers are the base costs without insurance factored in and not necessarily what patients end up paying.

There are out-of-pocket expenses insurance doesn’t usually cover:

Travel

If you don’t live near the hospital where your heart kiddo is receiving treatment, you’ll have travel expenses to factor into the overall cost. Some, but not all, insurance companies will reimburse for travel expenses.  Your financial counselor can help you identify if your insurance provides this benefit.

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Also read: 5 Surprising Issues About Heart Transplant Costs

It’s definitely worth looking into whether you can receive free or reduced-cost housing accommodations. The hospital may even have some lodging options of its own. For instance, at Children’s we have the Carolyn Scott Rainbow House not only for our heart families but also our NICU babies, hematology-oncology kids and many other children who travel to receive care at Children’s, even if it is just for one night!

Childcare

Omaha_HowMuchDoesAHeartTransplantCost04Regardless of how far you have to travel, if you have other children you may also need to find someone to care for them. Some families are fortunate enough to have relatives, neighbors, or older children who can take on this responsibility cost-free.

But for a lot of families, the only reasonable option is to find a daycare or babysitter.

 

Education

If your child is school-age, you may also be concerned about him keeping up with his peers, especially because he’ll probably be missing a lot of class time.

Depending on your circumstances, you have a number of options for academic support. Your child’s school might have the resources to work with you free of charge. His teacher could provide you with notes and homework or the school district may provide a tutor.

But if he needs more academic support, hiring a tutor might be the best option.

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Your child’s hospital may also offer educational services to help kids stay on track with their studies. It’s worth checking into that or finding out if they have recommendations for other means of academic support.

Lost Wages

If you need to take time off work to take care of your heart kiddo, you may be entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave from your job during a 12 month period under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Also read: Making the Family Medical Leave Act Work for Heart Transplant Families

The catch: You have to meet employment time requirements to be eligible for the time off and your job doesn’t have to pay you during those 12 weeks. That means your lost wages are another expense to factor into to the total cost of a heart transplant. The same issue happens if you’re able to stay on your job but you have to cut back to part-time.

If all of these numbers seem overwhelming, don’t fret.  Your child’s transplant team is there to help you figure things out – and not just the medical stuff – we help with the social and financial details too. A lot of work, by a lot of people (including you), goes into making a heart transplant successful.

Also read: Behind the Scenes: Here’s What It Takes for a Pediatric Heart Transplant to Succeed

Barb Roessner

Hi, I'm Barb, and I'm a Physician Assistant and coordinator of the Heart Failure and Transplant Program at Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. I work with patients and families at every step of the journey, from diagnosing their child's heart condition to my favorite part—calling them to say "We have a heart."