The impact of Medicare's lifetime immunosuppression coverage on racial disparities in kidney graft survival.



Beginning January 1, 2000, Medicare effectively extended its coverage of immunosuppression medications from 3 years to lifetime for patients eligible for Medicare on the basis of age or disability status. We examined the impact of this policy on racial disparities in kidney transplant outcomes at 5 years. Using data from the US Renal Data System, we identified cohorts of Medicare-insured kidney transplant recipients according to patient characteristics defining eligibility for lifetime immunosuppression coverage according to the year 2000 policy. We compared racial disparities in graft survival among those eligible for lifetime coverage with the Kaplan-Meier method. We modeled adjusted associations of patient race, patient income, benefits eligibility category and policy exposure with graft loss by multivariable Cox's regression. The racial disparity in graft survival between African American and non-African American among transplant recipients eligible for the lifetime benefit persisted. The graft survival disparity between high- and low-income African American recipients was insignificantly reduced among those eligible for the lifetime benefit. The results of the study suggest that insurance coverage of medication did not eliminate or reduce the racial disparity in graft survival. A pre-post comparison of 5-year graft survival rates finds that Medicare's lifetime coverage of immunosuppression medication does not reduce racial disparities in kidney graft survival.


Health Management and Policy

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American Journal of Transplantation



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© Copyright 2012 The American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.