Information For The Community

The Organ Transplant Process

Organ transplantation is the process of surgically transferring a donated organ to someone diagnosed with organ failure. Many diseases can lead to organ failure, including heart disease, diabetes, hepatitis, cystic fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Injury and birth defects may also cause organ failure.
  1. Get a Referral

    You must get a referral from your physician in order to be evaluated by a transplant program as a potential transplant candidate.  

  2. Gather Information

    There's a lot to learn about the transplantation process, everything from where a patient can be listed, to financial considerations, to recovery. This free brochure, "What Every Patient Needs to Know exit disclaimer," from UNOS exit disclaimer provides an overview of the process.

  3. Select a Transplant Center

    While you may be referred to a transplant center or program, you may also want to make sure that it meets your needs. Consider its location, compatibility with your insurance program, financial arrangements and support group availability. The OPTN has a list of member transplant centers.  

  4. Schedule an Evaluation Appointment

    Contact the transplant hospital. Schedule an appointment for an evaluation to find out if you are a good candidate for transplant. During the evaluation, ask questions to learn as much as you can about that hospital and its transplant team.

  5. Get Listed

    If the transplant team members determine that you are a suitable transplant candidate, they will add you to the OPTN national waiting list of all people waiting for a transplant. The transplant team will contact you in writing about 10 days after you are listed to let you know the date and time that your name was added to the national list. Any questions you have about your status on the waiting list should be directed to your transplant team at your transplant center.

Understand the Costs Involved in Transplantation

Transplantation involves costs before, during, and after the actual transplant surgery. These costs are the responsibility of the recipient, not the donor. Costs include:

  • Laboratory tests, organ procurement, transplant surgeons and other operating room personnel
  • In-hospital stays, transportation to and from the transplant hospital for surgery and for checkups
  • Rehabilitation, including physical or occupational therapy
  • Medications, including immunosuppressive or anti-rejection drugs which are very costly

For a list of important questions to ask your insurance company, visit


Putting Your Financial Plan Together

Planning for transplant surgery requires financial planning. Health insurance may cover some or most of the costs, but insurance policies vary widely. Call your insurance company or your employer's benefits office to get detailed information about how your insurance company handles the costs related to your specific situation. For a list of important questions to ask your insurance company, visit

In general, you are responsible for any costs not covered by insurance. You need to think about what resources you will use to pay the costs not covered by insurance. These resources may include savings, sale of property, or other sources.

Fortunately, you do not need to face these decisions alone. Members of the transplant team, such as the transplant center's social worker and financial coordinator (see below), can help you develop a financial plan and may be able to put you in touch with organizations that provide financial assistance to transplant recipients.


Work with Your Financial Coordinator

The financial coordinator at a transplant center is a member of the transplant team. Financial coordinators have detailed information and experience with health care financing and hospital billing. It is helpful to speak with the financial coordinator before making financial decisions related to your transplant and to keep the coordinator up to date as your financial plans evolve.

The financial coordinator can help you:

  • Understand how your insurance company's benefits apply to transplant surgery
  • Make a financial plan for paying for your transplant
  • Make a financial plan for nonmedical (for example, living expenses) costs
  • Locate additional sources of funding, if necessary
  • Understand (and, if necessary, correct) bills from hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, and other providers

Important questions to ask your financial coordinator are on pages 37–38 of What Every Patient Needs to Know (PDF - 3.64 MB) and at

More detailed information on finding financial resources for a transplant may be found at:


Find Out if Medicare or Medicaid Might Help You

Medicare is a federal program, and Medicaid is operated by individual states. Both are health insurance programs that can help eligible people pay for the costs of transplantation.

Medicare is available for people age 65 or older, peop