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Am J Kidney Dis. 2018 Apr;71(4):488-494. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2017.09.011. Epub 2017 Dec 1.

Caring for Undocumented Immigrants With Kidney Disease.

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Department of Medicine, The Selzman Institute for Kidney Disease, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. Electronic address:


The care of dialysis-dependent undocumented immigrants exemplifies a problem at the crux of 2 US national agendas: immigration and health care reform. Undocumented immigrants represent 3% of the US population and 27% of the uninsured, and an estimated 6,500 individuals are dialysis dependent. With no uniform national policy, an estimated 30% to 50% of these individuals receive treatment only in life-threatening situations (emergent dialysis). Since 2005, about 400 undocumented immigrants have received a kidney transplant (>70% living). Although the Affordable Care Act specifically excluded noncitizens, its policies have indirectly allowed more than 200 individuals to purchase insurance from a health insurance exchange and transition from emergent to thrice-weekly hemodialysis. Under the Trump administration, uncertainties with health care plans, threats of deportation, and rescinding of policies such as sanctuary city status are bound to result in unforeseen challenges for this vulnerable population. Global variation in the care accessible to migrants, refugees, undocumented immigrants, and asylum seekers argues for the need for a framework to transform advocacy into public policy to improve the lives of patients with kidney disease worldwide. Access to nonemergent dialysis is humane and cost-effective; it deserves to be espoused and advocated by leading medical organizations.


US health care system; Undocumented immigrants; United States immigration policy; dialysis; end-stage renal disease (ESRD); health care costs; immigration; kidney disease; medical ethics; migrants; renal replacement therapy (RRT); sanctuary city

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