Arizona governor restores transplant funding

PHOENIX (Reuters) – Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has restored funding for transplants as part of the new state budget, officials said on Thursday.

Brewer had cut the transplants to around 100 people in the desert state on October 1 last year, as part of a controversial bid to trim the state’s soaring spending on Medicaid and balance a yawning state fiscal deficit.

The cuts were restored in the budget signed by Brewer late on Wednesday, an official at the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCS, said.

“As part of the broader budget solution reached between the governor and the legislature, that funding was restored and we have begun covering the transplants again,” Monica Coury, assistant director for intergovernmental relations at AHCCS told Reuters.

Brewer’s Medicaid Reform Plan restored funding for pancreas, liver, heart and lung transplants, among others, to patients aged 21 and older who receive AHCCS, as the state’s Medicaid program is known. It is retroactive to April 1.

The cuts enacted last year by Brewer, a Republican, sought to trim Medicaid spending in the state, which projected an overall budget deficit of more than $1 billion at the start of the year.

An advocate working with the families of 98 transplant patients who had been denied coverage since October on Thursday welcomed the program’s restoration as “a cause for great joy.”

“The families and the individuals who have worked so hard and lived through this nightmare for the past few months, have cause for joy tonight … they have their chance at life back,” said Steven Daglas, founder of the arizona98.com group.

At least two transplant patients died following the cuts, although it was not clear if a transplant would have saved them.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton)

Arizona governor restores transplant funding