What is a bone marrow transplant and how to help cover the costs with critical illness insurance?

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A bone marrow transplant can be steep in price, but critical illness insurance can help.

A bone marrow transplant can be a life-changing treatment for cancer and non-cancerous conditions. Medical professionals recommend bone marrow transplants to individuals for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons include allowing patients to receive a higher dose of chemotherapy or generating new stem cells to help fight cancerous cells directly.¹

Bone marrow transplants can also be very expensive without insurance or if your insurance doesn’t cover all the costs associated with the transplant. 


Bone marrow transplant costs

The cost of a bone marrow transplant can fall anywhere between $400,000 and almost $900,000². There are many factors to consider, such as whether the procedure is autologous (uses the patient's own stem cells) or allogeneic (stem cells harvested from a donor). Just these two differences can make a difference in cost. 

Allogeneic transplants cost more because your medical team must look for a donor, and harvest the stem cells, use anesthesia, and so on. Allogeneic transplants also differ in price if the donor is related to the patient, versus the donor being a stranger.³

Other factors related to cost

There are other factors that contribute to the cost of a bone marrow transplant. For example, some cancer patients who are receiving the transplant usually go for a round of chemotherapy beforehand. In addition, the type of facility the bone marrow transplant is being conducted could also affect the cost. Another factor that contributes to the cost of the bone marrow transplant is age. Pediatric patients who undergo a bone marrow transplant have a higher-priced procedure due to more tests and examinations than an older patient⁴. Other factors that can determine the cost of the transplant include⁵:

  • Hospital fees

  • Room charges

  • Lab charges including bloodwork and other exams

  • Anesthesia charge (for the donor most likely, as they complete the transplant procedure while the patient is awake) 

  • Medications 

  • Follow-up costs

What is a bone marrow transplant? 

Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside the bones that makes blood-forming cells (otherwise known as stem cells). These cells can turn into red blood cells that carry oxygen, white blood cells that fight infections, and even platelets to control bleeding.⁶ A bone marrow transplant, also known as a stem cell transplant, is a procedure that infuses healthy blood-forming stem cells into your body. This is usually done to replace damaged or diseased bone marrow. 

Who is a bone marrow transplant for?

A bone marrow transplant is most ideal for patients battling cancerous and non-cancerous diseases, such as⁷: 

  • Acute leukemia

  • Aplastic anemia

  • Bone marrow failure syndromes

  • Hemoglobinopathies

  • Immune deficiencies 

  • Neuroblastoma

  • Plasma cell disorders

  • Primary amyloidosis

Is a bone marrow transplant painful?

During a bone marrow transplant procedure, the patient is usually awake. Beforehand, many patients have undergone a conditioning process, which is generally a few rounds of chemotherapy/radiation to kill cancerous cells and suppress the immune system. 

What about the recovery process? 

Bone marrow transplant recovery can take a while. After the procedure is complete, patients usually need to stay near a hospital for a period of time for close monitoring and getting bloodwork done, among other necessary care. Transfusions of red blood cells may be needed while the bone marrow adapts to your body and starts creating cells.⁸ There may be medications prescribed, such as immune system repressors and drugs to fight infections. Bone marrow transplant side effects can be difficult to predict beforehand, but during the conditioning process itself, patients may experience nausea or vomiting, bleeding, and fatigue.⁹

Health insurance limitations

The cost of a bone marrow transplant can differ significantly, and some plans might pay for the transplant, but not the cost to find a donor. Some plans may still require copays for medications and clinic visits after the transplant. In addition, some health insurance plans might not even cover a bone marrow transplant procedure at all. There are also other costs to consider next to a bone marrow transplant, such as possible housing and transportation expenses. 

What is critical illness insurance?

Critical illness insurance is a type of supplemental health insurance. It can help you cover out-of-pocket medical expenses that your primary health insurance plan may not cover. 

Critical illness insurance pays a lump sum cash benefit payable directly to you, if you or a family member experience a covered critical illness, including major organ failure requiring a transplant, such as bone marrow, the pancreas, lungs, or liver. Once your diagnosis is verified, your insurance company will pay out a lump sum cash benefit depending on the type of illness. 

Critical illness insurance plans vary from provider to provider, but  Guardian Direct® Critical Illness Protection Plus plan does not involve any deductibles, co-pays, maximums, healthcare provider restrictions, or waiting periods. 

Managing a critical illness insurance is hard enough

Dealing with a severe illness can be anxiety-inducing. Trying to figure out how to pay medical bills, treatment costs, and other expenses related to the disease can harm your quality of life. 

A bone marrow transplant can help save or improve your quality of life. However, bone marrow transplant costs can be extensive. Whether it's the cost of finding a donor, the labs and blood work needed, to the conditioning process beforehand, and everything required for post-transplant care, it can overwhelm anyone. Never mind the toll the transplant takes on the body itself, the potential complications, or the bone marrow transplant side effects that may arise. There's also transportation, housing, and everyday living expenses that you must take into consideration while recovering. 

With critical illness insurance, you can use your lump sum cash benefit to help pay for medical and non-medical bills, including everyday expenses so you can focus on recovery not medical bills.

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.


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  1. transplant/about/pac-20384854, 2019

  2. https://fortune.com/2017/09/14/organ-transplant-cost, 2017

  3. https://medigence.com/blog/bone-marrow-transplant-cost-guide, 2018

  4. https://medigence.com/blog/bone-marrow-transplant-cost-guide, 2018

  5. https://medigence.com/blog/bone-marrow-transplant-cost-guide, 2018

  6. https://bethematch.org/patients-and-families/about-transplant/what-is-a-bone-marrow-transplant-, accessed August 2020

  7. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bone-marrow-transplant/about/pac-20384854, 2019

  8. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/stem-cell-transplant/process.html, 2020

  9. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bone-marrow-transplant/about/pac-20384854, 2019

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.(exp.08/22)