Plan aimed at restoring Arizona transplant funding in the works

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX – A plan is being talked about that would be aimed at restoring state Medicaid coverage for Arizona transplant patients, many of whom do not have much time left.

This plan comes days after a second patient died after being denied coverage.

At least three legislators are coming up with a plan to restore transplant funding. One of the ideas is an old one that is set to be re-introduced at the State Capitol on Monday.

Sandra Felix’s uncle needs a transplant. She says, “I ask them to have a heart, consider each of these people. They all matter.”

Transplant patients have been outspoken about the matter and now surgeons are criticizing the end of state transplant funding.

Dr. Rainer Gruessner, the University of Arizona surgery chair, says, “I don’t want to get into politics, but it backfired. What this policy doesn’t include is a component of fairness to patients.”

Unless funding is restored, Dr. Gruessner says he expects 30 transplant patients to die this year.

State Senator Kyrsten Sinema says she has a plan. She has written a bill which would end a $10,000 tax credit for businesses given to help them file their taxes.

Sinema says revoking it would save Arizona $18 million, which is more than enough to restore transplant funding.

Sinema, who is a democrat, calls the plan practical and not political. “This bill was inspired by Speaker Adams (a republican) who introduced the same bill in 2009.”

It failed two years ago but Sinema says she hopes for bipartisan support this time around. “It should go through. The governor herself has said she’d be happy to fund transplants if only some democrat would tell her how to pay for it so I’ve offered that solution.”

Republican leaders are waiting to weigh in on any specific plans. Sen. Russell Pearce says, “I’m not going to make commitments right now until we look at the overall ability to fix this problem.”

The bill will be in the hands of the republican majority when the legislature begins its new season Monday.

If the bill is supported by both sides, it could take at least a month until it gets through the legislature.