National Transplant Organizations Take a Stand Against Arizona Medicaid Cuts

AST, ASTS and UNOS have appealed to Governor Brewer to reconsider Medicaid funding cuts for specified organ transplants

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- The American Society of Transplantation (AST), the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) have issued a letter to Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) requesting a meeting to discuss the recent elimination of certain organ transplants from the benefits available to Arizona residents dependent on the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). The benefit changes became effective on October 1, 2010.

“This baseless exclusion of coverage to Arizona citizens for services that represent the best treatment option for patients with end-stage organ failure (to both improve survival and quality of life) represents an actual death sentence for many of these citizens of Arizona,” states AST President Maryl R. Johnson, MD.

The exclusion of Medicaid transplant coverage for lung, pancreas only, pancreas after kidney, heart for non-ischemic cardiomyopathy and liver for diagnosis of hepatitis C is unprecedented in the United States. According to UNOS data, as of November 5, 2010, 61 AHCCCS patients (i.e., 6 heart candidates, 5 lung candidates, 2 pancreas candidates and 48 liver candidates) were on the national waitlist for these specific types of transplants.

“Although organ transplantation requires significant resources to provide for patients, it is often more cost-effective than alternative therapies because it prolongs patients’ productive lives and significantly reduces their hospitalization rates,” states ASTS President Michael M. Abecassis, MD, MBA.

The Arizona state legislature currently faces a challenging fiscal situation and has been forced to make difficult budget cuts. For this reason, four Arizona transplant centers have already engaged in a new effort to assist the AHCCCS with cost containment. The newly formed Medical Executive Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from each of the Arizona transplant centers, has proposed to collaborate with AHCCCS in an ongoing review of cost-saving opportunities through the reform of health care delivery rather than through the outright elimination of these transplant benefits. The Committee has already developed specific recommendations based on national best practices guidelines.

“AHCCCS should pursue a partnership with the Medical Executive Advisory Committee in order to reduce costs and preserve access for the residents of Arizona to life-saving transplantation services,” states UNOS President, Charles E. Alexander, RN, MSN, MBA, CPTC.

AST, ASTS and UNOS will continue discussions with Arizona transplant centers and professionals to raise awareness of the impact the Medicaid funding cuts will have on the Arizona population.

“The determined involvement of our national transplant organizations sheds light on the severity of the issue facing AHCCCS patients,” states Rainer Gruessner, MD, Head of Transplantation at the University of Arizona and Chairman of its Department of Surgery. “All four of Arizona’s transplant centers have agreed on an alternative plan, including the elimination of certain evaluation tests that will achieve the same cost savings without eliminating life-saving transplants. To date, our plan has not been acknowledged, and patients will die as a consequence.”

About AST

The American Society of Transplantation is an international organization of transplant professionals who are dedicated to advancing the field of transplantation and improving patient care by promoting research, education, advocacy and organ donation. The Society comprises more than 3,200 transplant physicians, surgeons, scientists and allied health professionals. For more information about the Society, go to

About ASTS

Established in 1974, the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) is the oldest transplant society serving over 1700 surgeons, physicians, scientists, pharmacists, coordinators, and advanced transplant providers. ASTS is committed to fostering the practice and science of transplantation and guiding those who make the policy decisions by advocating for comprehensive and innovative solutions to the needs of our members and their patients. The ASTS is a nonprofit organization located in Arlington, VA. For more information, go to

About UNOS

Located in Richmond, Virginia, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is a non-profit, scientific and educational organization that administers the nation's only Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, established by the U.S. Congress in 1984. UNOS is responsible for collecting and managing data about every transplant event occurring in the United States; facilitating the organ matching and placement process nationwide, and bringing together medical professionals, transplant recipients and donor families to develop organ transplantation policy. For more information, go to


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