December 6th, 2010
04:08 PM ET

Arizona Cuts Financing for Transplant Patients

Marc Lacy
The New York Times

Even physicians with decades of experience telling patients that their lives are nearing an end are having difficulty discussing a potentially fatal condition that has arisen in Arizona: Death by budget cut.

Effective at the beginning of October, Arizona stopped financing certain transplant operations under the state’s version of Medicaid. Many doctors say the decision amounts to a death sentence for some low-income patients, who have little chance of survival without transplants and lack the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to pay for them.

“The most difficult discussions are those that involve patients who had been on the donor list for a year or more and now we have to tell them they’re not on the list anymore,” said Dr. Rainer Gruessner, a transplant specialist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “The frustration is tremendous. It’s more than frustration.”

Organ transplants are already the subject of a web of regulations, which do not guarantee that everyone in need of a life-saving organ will receive one. But Arizona’s transplant specialists are alarmed that patients who were in line to receive transplants one day were, after the state’s budget cuts to its Medicaid program, ruled ineligible the next — unless they raised the money themselves.

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Filed under: Health Care
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Dee Ann Smith

    Yes it is sad that transplants are not being covered anymore. But, has anyone else looked at their insurance coverage! I pay for my insurance through my employer (which happens to be a hospital that does kidney transplants among other things). My insurance DOES NOT cover transplants. So my question is, why should my taxes pay for someone elses transplant.

    December 7, 2010 at 9:47 am |
  2. Henry

    Guess the Death panels arrived without Obama care, where's the uproar now? Palin? Anyone? Limbaugh? (crickets chirping)

    December 7, 2010 at 1:28 am |
  3. Vicky

    Shame on Jane Brewer for giving innocent people the death penalty. Life is a Constitution right for all Americans. J. Brewer needs to be investigated and perhaps charged with murder. I am appalled to learn that in America people are dying because States cannot finance taxpayer's lives. People's lives should be placed on the priority list. What is happening to our Country if we cannot respect life??????? Someone's trash maybe someone's treasure. Disturbing.

    December 7, 2010 at 12:02 am |
  4. Brenda Banks

    I think one of the questions to ask is Why is the cost of a transplant so much? I understand the cost would be in the thousands but why 100's of thousands? The fundamental issue of this problem could be addressed if the cost where not so crazy to begin with. I love to hear a special about such costs. Are they realistic?

    Thanks for listening,


    December 6, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  5. Adriane Elrod

    Governor Jan Brewer made a baseless decision. She said she would reinstate the funding if she were to be provided with other ideas for funding. How about the 2.4 million spent for algae research? This is nothing short of criminal!

    December 6, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  6. J.V.Hodgson

    So now we see where the real " death panels" reside. In Republican Arizona state government, and Doctors who are prepared to ignore thier Hypocratic oath because they won't be paid, and indirectly the private insurers who may have abandoned some of these waitlisters or simply could not afford the premiums.
    Ther is going to be along list of states doing this to cut budgets, as most now have Republican governors who don't support Health care anyway.
    You gets what you vote for.

    December 6, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
  7. Tony Neuhart

    It is reprehensible what the Governor of Arizona has done with regards to potential transplant patients in Arizona. However, with the healthcare reform that President Obama signed into law on March 23, 2010 (Patient Protection and Affordability Act (PPACA)), on the list of “essential benefits” as established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, transplants are not specifically listed as an “essential benefit”. As such transplants limits are still going to be allowed. So while I agree that the Governor is wrong, the Secretary of Health & Human Services is not much better… the Administration has implemented healthcare reform, which is a good thing, but they left too many unanswered areas… transplants!

    Seattle, WA

    December 6, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  8. Johnny

    Brewer........republicans.....look at these demons, just as an attempt to smear the President and to keep the money to themselves they are willing to let the American people, that clearly depend on them to fight for them, die for their own selfish Agendas! Who can believe in the system? When the system operators are in it for only themselves.

    December 6, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  9. William A Faust II

    Dear Anderson,
    Just viewed your segment on the budget cuts on transplants in the State of Arizona. The cuts would not have been necessary had former Governor and current Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano "Bankrupted" our State. Please give Janet a call and place the burden on her were this horrible situation belongs! Governor Brewer is doing the best she can to bail out our state and Napolitano escaped the state just in the nick of time before the "?!$&" hit the fan!

    William A. Faust II
    Scottsdale, Arizona

    December 6, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  10. Mark S

    Your story said the state was only saving $1.4m. You also stated one planned recipient was asked to come up with $200,000 as a deposit towards a $500,000 liver transplant. Explain your math, is the Sate only paying for 3 transplants a year? Or is the $500,000 price an inflated number?

    December 6, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  11. Mary

    My daughter is almost 9 years out from transplant. We were fully insured but were dropped after transplant because she maxed out on benefits. She is doing fine, there we donations for our traveling expenses but can not imagine raising $250,000.00 just to get her to transplant. We are so thankful for her care under Medicare and the state for picking up the bills now. The drugs alone cost over $7000.00 per month not to mention the doctor and hospital care she needs from time to time. She is doing very well after 9 years and being at deaths door when the lungs became available.

    December 6, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
  12. Deborah

    AZ is not the only state that is cutting life-saving procedures. All over the country, "optional" Medicaid services are being cut in the name of cost containment, while other, more frivolous spending – both on the state and federal level – continues.

    December 6, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
  13. George Mason

    Pretty sick that we're spending $20 billion a week in Afghanistan to chase boogeymen (that we created during the 1980's) and to secure trillions of dollars worth of rare minerals for conglomerate, but are unable to care for our own. Wake up America!

    December 6, 2010 at 8:46 pm |
  14. jarrod

    Arizona has no money for the poor sick but they sure have money to put more n more people in prisons.

    December 6, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
  15. Vesta

    Anderson, How realistic is raising the funds themselves? Regulations are not considering the fact that some have already been on the donor list and have been waiting in some instances, for over a year!!

    December 6, 2010 at 5:38 pm |