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September 21, 2021

DES MOINES, IA – Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield has recognized that Avera McKennan Hospital has achieved the new kidney transplant designation for adult kidney under the Blue Distinction® Centers for Transplants program. With this new kidney transplant designation, Wellmark members living with kidney failure will be able to find designated facilities in their area that provide accessible, higher quality transplant services.

To receive a Blue Distinction Centers for Transplants designation for kidney transplants, a health care facility must demonstrate success in meeting nationally established, objective quality measures along with delivering higher quality transplant services within the Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® network. Quality measures used in the evaluation are publicly reported by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. All Blue Distinction Centers for Transplants facilities must be fully accredited by a national accrediting organization, meet the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' certification requirements, and adhere to transplant guidelines from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

Avera McKennan Hospital is also recognized by Wellmark for adult liver transplants.

Blue Distinction Centers for Transplants facilities have demonstrated their commitment to quality care, resulting in better overall outcomes for transplant patients. They offer a broad range of transplant services through a coordinated, streamlined transplant management program. To date, Blue Distinction Centers for Transplants has designated more than 149 facilities nationwide — with some facilities being designated for more than one program to represent a total of more than 365 transplant programs — that meet its evidence-based selection criteria.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidney diseases such as Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are the ninth leading cause of death in America, impacting nearly 37 million Americans1. With more than 23,000 kidney transplants performed in the United States2, according to UNOS, kidney is the top transplant procedure for the year, highlighting the important role that the Blue Distinction Centers for Transplants play in providing patients with the knowledge and tools they desire along with the specialized kidney transplant care they need. The National Institute of Health's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases cites that kidney failure also affects the nation's minority and low-income patients disproportionately, when compared to Caucasian Americans, with African Americans being 3.5 times more likely to have ESRD3.

Blue Distinction Centers are nationally designated providers that show expertise in delivering improved patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed with input from the medical community and leading accreditation and quality organizations.

The Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality specialty care in the areas of bariatric surgery, cancer care, cardiac care, cellular immunotherapy, fertility care, gene therapy, knee and hip replacement, maternity care, spine surgery, substance use treatment and recovery, and transplants, while encouraging health care professionals to improve the care they deliver. Based on data-driven analysis of Blue Distinction Centers, designated facilities, compared to other hospitals and facilities, demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients. On average, Blue Distinction Centers+ are also 20 percent more cost-efficient than non-Blue Distinction Center+ designated hospitals and facilities4.

For more information about the program and for a complete listing of the designated facilities, visit www.bcbs.com/bluedistinction External Link.

1 https://www.kidney.org/news/newsroom/factsheets/KidneyDiseaseBasics External Link

2 https://unos.org/data/transplant-trends/ External Link

3 https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/kidney-disease External Link

4 BCBSA and registry data (where applicable), BDC/BDC+ eligible facilities vs. relevant comparison group. Results based on most recent designation cycle for each specialty. Savings based on BDC/BDC+ total episode cost.