Patients lose organ transplants thanks to state budget cuts

In Arizona, low-income patients are being denied life-saving medical care because of state budget cuts, reports the Arizona Republic. Nearly 100 patients enrolled in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System--the state's version of Medicaid--who were approved for organ transplants have been told the procedures are no longer covered under the plan.

"To basically renege on what you promised was [going to] be a chance at life is a very, very bitter indictment of the ethics of the Legislature," Arthur Caplan, head of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, told NPR.

One of those 100, Francisco Felix, missed his opportunity to receive a liver transplant Tuesday. Without coverage, Felix couldn't find $200,000 overnight to pay for the procedure. He is back on the waiting list.

Since the changes became effective on Oct. 1, three national transplant organizations sent a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer requesting a meeting to dispute the exclusion of certain organ transplants from AHCCCS.

"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," said AST President Maryl R. Johnson.

Rep. John Kavanagh, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he wants to revisit transplant cuts when the Legislature goes back in session in January. "It's a terrible situation," Kavanagh told NPR, "but we don't want anybody to die because of a faulty data set. So if we made a mistake, we're [going to] reinstate those that require it."

As of Nov. 5, 61 Medicaid patients (six heart candidates, five lung candidates, two pancreas candidates and 48 liver candidates) were on the national waitlist for the excluded types of transplants, notes Medical News Today.

For more:
- check out the NPR article
- read the Arizona Republic article
- read the Medical News Today article
- here's the letter from national transplant groups