Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mike Rees launches "Reverse transplant tourism" at the Alliance for Paired Donation

Philippine couple receives first operation in Reverse Transplant Tourism

NBC videos: 

"TOLEDO -- A couple from the Philippines is preparing to return to their country after undergoing life-saving transplant surgery here in Toledo.
They have been through an amazing journey so far. But the biggest accomplishment from their ordeal may be yet to come, and may benefit thousands of people around the world.
Jose is undergoing one of his last dialysis treatments before his kidney transplant. He is the first organ recipient in a pioneering program developed by University of Toledo Medical Center surgeon Dr. Mike Rees.
Being the first person to benefit from Revese Transplant Tourism, Jose is almost the ultimate lottery winner. "This has never happened before," said Dr. Rees. "And through a series of chance encounters, he’ll be the first to benefit from this."
Those encounters all began in the city of San Pablo, in the Philippines. In October, 2013, Jose’s kidneys began to fail. Dialysis or transplantation would cost ten times Jose’s income as a debt collector combined with that of his wife, Kristine, an accountant.
Jose was ready to stop treatments and resign himself to death. But his son, eight-year-old John, insisted he hold on.
“He asked, if you go through this surgery maybe we will be father and son again," Jose told NBC 24. "And you had to keep on going.”

In their hometown of San Pablo in the Philippines, Jose and Kristine sold their possessions. They sold their house. They even pawned their ATM card to pay for his treatments. And then, when they had used up all their resources, something like a miracle happened.”
Dr. Don Paloyo, Jose’s doctor in Manila, had been introduced to Dr. Rees through a mutual friend. Jose and Kristine had just the right pairing of blood types, and just the economic circumstance, to benefit from Dr. Rees’s program. “I said, you know, I think that’s the way for one of my patients to go," said Dr. Paloyo.
It took months to raise the needed 150-thousand dollars to pay for Jose and Kristine’s trip to America and arrange a series of organ donations.
Ultimately, Jose would receive a kidney from a donor in Georgia, Kristine would donate her kidney to a recipient in Minnesota. The Minnesota recipient had a willing kidney donor, been offered a kidney by an acquaintance, but they had at was an incompatible tissue match. So, instead that donated kidney will go to a recipient in Seattle.
The unique twist in Dr. Rees’ program is what makes it affordable. He is working to convince American insurance companies to pay for a transplant and follow-up care because the insurance companies will actually save money.
"You can pay for three kidney transplants for the cost of one patient to get dialysis," said Dr. Rees.
And recruiting a foreign donor makes sense because the cost of follow up care is less in countries like the Philippines.
"So the amount of money that we would have to put up to pay for an American to get a transplant would be significantly more than we would have to pay for a recipient in the Philippines," said Dr. Rees.
Dr. Rees calls his program Reverse Transplant Tourism. And in addition to saving private insurers enough to pay for itself, it could reduce the cost of treatment through Medicare by billions. "We’ve actually achieved a holy grail of health care reform," said Dr. Rees.
"It’s revolutionary," said Dr. Paloya. "It’s a game changer I think."
And for the poorest of poor patients around the world, it could also be a life-saver.

Dr. Rees’s Reverse Transplant Tourism program could require changes in current transplant laws, especially when it comes to making it eligible for Medicare or Medicaid insurance. But Rees and his foundation, the Alliance for Paired Donation, are working to lay the groundwork for that."

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