The US has a major shortage of kidneys for transplants. In 2015, there were over 121,000 people with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) on the kidney transplant list. With an aging population and thousands of people dying or becoming "too sick to transplant" every year, the gap between people in need of a kidney and completed transplants has widened dramatically.
Dialysis, the primary treatment option for ESRD, is not only time consuming and exhausting—it's also expensive, accounting for $87,000 per year, per patient, and over 7 percent of Medicare's budget.
Without a bold strategy for increasing the supply of kidneys for transplant, thousands will continue to suffer while Medicare's budget balloons. Fortunately, unlike many problems we face, we know how to solve the kidney shortage and save taxpayer money in the process.
The Example of Iran
To do so, we should look to Iran. An unlikely innovator in organ transplant policy, Iran offers monetary compensation to living donors in order to help supply meet demand, a policy so effective that their kidney transplant waiting list was virtually eliminated within 11 years of implementation.