Organ Transplants Denied in Arizona after Medicaid Agency's Budget Cut

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Budget cuts in Arizona's legislature resulted in a man leaving a hospital Tuesday after the state Medicaid agency refused to pay for a life-saving liver transplant.

Francisco Felix, the Hepatitis C patient who was denied the transplant, and other low-income patients in Arizona have been refused such necessary procedures after lawmakers cut funding for the agency, known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS, CBS News affiliate KPHO-TV in Phoenix reports.

Starting Oct. 1, the agency began reversing its approval of organ transplants for 98 low-income patients, according to NPR. The abrupt change came from a series of budget-cutting measures taken by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer.

Without funding from the state, Felix needed to raise $200,000 to pay for the liver transplant. The liver was directly donated to Felix from a family friend who died suddenly Monday. But because Felix's family could not raise enough to cover the cost of the operation, the liver went to another patient.

Similarly, Randy Shepherd, who ran a plumbing business, told NPR that his heart muscle is weakening as a result of the rheumatic fever he had when he was much younger. AHCCCS was the only heath insurance he could get because of that pre-existing condition.

The agency approved Shepherd for a heart transplant more than a year ago, then recently reversed its decision. But he told NPR he's stopped being bitter because the agency paid for a pacemaker to serve as a temporary fix until he gets a new heart. Next year, he becomes eligible for Medicare and will seek help from the federal agency.

Democratic lawmakers are demanding a special session of the legislature to consider reinstating funds for the agency, KPHO-TV reports. A Republican member of the statehouse's appropriations committee said the issue would likely be brought up when the legislature returns to work in January.

  • Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

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