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01.12.2012 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2012 Open Access

BMC Health Services Research 1/2012

Medicare immunosuppressant coverage and access to kidney transplantation: a retrospective national cohort study

BMC Health Services Research > Ausgabe 1/2012
Vanessa Grubbs, Laura C Plantinga, Eric Vittinghoff, Ann M O’Hare, R Adams Dudley
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1472-6963-12-254) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

VG acquired the data, participated in study design and statistical analysis and interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript. LCP and EV participated in statistical analysis and interpretation of the data and critical revision of the manuscript. AMO and RAD participated in study design and critical revision of the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.



In December 2000, Medicare eliminated time limitations in immunosuppressant coverage after kidney transplant for beneficiaries age ≥65 and those who were disabled. This change did not apply to younger non-disabled beneficiaries who qualified for Medicare only because of their end-stage renal disease (ESRD). We sought to examine access to waitlisting for kidney transplantation in a cohort spanning this policy change.


This was a retrospective cohort analysis of 241,150 Medicare beneficiaries in the United States Renal Data System who initiated chronic dialysis between 1/1/96 and 11/30/03. We fit interrupted time series Cox proportional hazard models to compare access to kidney transplant waitlist within 12 months of initiating chronic dialysis by age/disability status, accounting for secular trends.


Beneficiaries age <65 who were not disabled were less likely to be waitlisted after the policy change (hazard ratio (HR) for the later vs. earlier period, 0.93, p = 0.002), after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, co-morbid conditions, income, and ESRD network. There was no evidence of secular trend in this group (HR per year, 1.00, p = 0.989). Likelihood of being waitlisted among those age ≥65 or disabled increased steadily throughout the study period (HR per year, 1.04, p < 0.001), but was not clearly affected by the policy change (HR for the immediate effect of policy change, 0.93, p = 0.135).


The most recent extension in Medicare immunosuppressant coverage appears to have had little impact on the already increasing access to waitlisting among ≥65/ disabled beneficiaries eligible for the benefit but may have decreased access for younger, non-disabled beneficiaries who were not. The potential ramifications of policies on candidacy appeal for access to kidney transplantation should be considered.
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