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Rethinking Funding for Organ Transplants in Arizona

Governor seeks to use money for other purposes

Last year, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, R, came under fire for signing a bill that denied certain subsidized organ transplants to 100 people already approved for them. Despite some recent news reports that she planned to reverse that action, Brewer's proposed budget actually seeks to move 280,000 Medicaid recipients off the rolls and does not restore organ-transplant funding for patients covered by the state's Medicaid agency.

Brewer is asking that $150 million of state and requested federal matching money serve as a "safety net of sorts," according to spokesman Matthew Benson. That money, he says, could be used to reimburse hospitals that provide free care to the poor, including former Medicaid recipients, and those needing transplants.

State Rep. John Kavanagh, R, says that outside medical experts "failed to provide medical data contradicting the data" used to cut the funding.

"Although we provided data to the governor and the legislature concerning the facts that [transplants] do save lives, they keep saying they're ineffective," says Maryl Johnson, president of the American Society of Transplantation.

Already, two potential transplant recipients who were removed from eligibility have died.

Laurie Udesky is a writer in San Francisco.

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