Three national transplant organizations have come out strongly against changes the state of Arizona has made which prevent Medicaid patients from getting certain life-saving transplants, saying the actions will cause patient deaths.
"This baseless exclusion of coverage to Arizona citizens for services that represent the best treatment option for patients with end-stage organ failure represents an actual death sentence for many of these citizens of Arizona," said Maryl R. Johnson, MD., president of the American Society of Transplantation (AST).
The changes became effective Oct. 1, 2010, and were made to cut costs because of the state’s budget shortfall. The American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS), the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and AST have issued a letter to Arizona’s governor requesting a meeting.
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. The state is also excluding unrelated donor bone marrow transplants which affect blood cancer patients.
According to UNOS, as of November 5, 2010, 61 Medicaid patients (i.e., six heart candidates, five lung candidates, two pancreas candidates and 48 liver candidates) were on the national waitlist for these specific types of transplants.
Those already affected include 32-year-old Francisco Felix, a married father of two, who has hepatitis C. He was admitted to a Phoenix hospital recently and prepped for surgery only to learn he would not get the liver that had been secured for him. A hospital spokesman said Felix is one of 23 patients at the hospital who need liver transplants but won’t get them because of the cuts. He said Felix faces death if he doesn’t get a liver transplant in the next two years.
In October, an anonymous donor stepped forward to fund a bone marrow transplant for leukemia patient Mark Price after the state denied funding for the procedure. Doctors said the 37-year-old father of six would have died without the transplant.