Medicaid Cuts Killing Ariz. Transplant Patients

A second person in Arizona has died while waiting for an organ transplant. Not because they couldn't find a donor but because state budget cuts took the patients off the transplant list.

When CBS News first met 27-year-old Tiffany Tate in December 2010 she was in desperate need of a double lung transplant. Yet she and 98 other people in Arizona were kicked off the organ transplant list. The state decided it could no longer afford to pay for some transplants which can cost $200,000.

Transplant Taken Away

"If we all don't get our transplants, all 98 of us are going to die," says Tate. "We deserve a second chance. I didn't ask for this. I was born with this and I've fought my whole life."

CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports at least two people have died since November. Mark Price, a father of six, died waiting for a bone marrow transplant. Now the University Medical Center in Tucson says a man needing a new liver died due to the cutbacks.

A hospital spokesperson said, "We believe that it's likely that they died because they were unable to get a transplant."

"There's absolutely no way you can justify killing people to save really a little bit over a million dollars," says Ariz. Rep. Chad Campbell (D).

Campbell says cutting the transplant program is saving Arizona $1.4 million, or one-tenth of 1 percent of its $825 million budget deficit.

Ariz. governor Jan Brewer says Arizona is broke. "The state has only so much money and we can only provide so many optional kinds of care," she says.

The legislature is back next week and state Democrats plan to push two bills restoring transplant funding.

Tiffany Tate now has hope. Publicity about her case helped her raise the $200,000 she needs to pay for her own surgery. She's now back on the transplant list.

"Somebody wanted to give me that huge amount to save my life and that's just been amazing," says Tate.

She's still fighting for the nearly 100 other people who aren't as fortunate.
  • Ben Tracy

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