The economic impact of MELD on liver transplant centers

David A. Axelrod, Alan J. Koffron, Talia Baker, Patrice Al-Saden, Irma Dixler, Gwen McNatt, Scott Sumner, Mike Vaci, Michael Abecassis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Adoption of the model for end stage liver disease (MELD) system prioritized patients awaiting liver transplant (LT) by severity of illness including progressive renal dysfunction. Unfortunately, current reimbursement for LT is not adjusted by severity of illness or need for simultaneous liver-kidney transplantation (LKT). This study examines hospital cost and reimbursement for LT and LKT to determine the effect of MELD on transplant center (TC) financial outcomes given current reimbursement practices as well as DRG outlier threshold limits. LT was performed for 86 adults prior to and 127 following the implementation of MELD. Between the eras, there was a substantial increase in the average laboratory MELD score (17.1 to 20.7 p = 0.004) and percentage of LKTs performed (5.8% to 17.3 p = 0.01). Increasing MELD score was associated with higher costs ($4309 per MELD point p < 0.001) and decreasing TC net income ($1512 per MELD point p < 0.001). In patients not achieving the Medicare outlier status, predicted net loss was $17 700 for high-MELD patients and $19 133 for those needing LKT. In conclusion, contractual reimbursement agreements that are not indexed by severity of disease may not reflect the increased costs resulting from the MELD system. Even with outlier thresholds. Medicare reimbursement is inadequate resulting in a net loss for the TC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2297-2301
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Disease severity
  • Financial outcomes in transplantation
  • Health economics
  • Liver transplantation
  • MELD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Transplantation
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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