Man Denied Life-Saving Liver Transplant Because of Cuts in Arizona’s Medicaid Program

By Susan Jones | November 17, 2010 | 8:57 AM EST

( - Arizona's Medicaid agency announced earlier this year that it would no longer cover liver transplants for Hepatitis C patients, a move blasted at the time as "a death sentence" by one patient advocacy group. And now a Hep-C patient has been denied a life-saving liver transplant because he couldn’t afford to pay for it himself.

According to the Arizona Republic, 32-year-old Francisco Felix was in the hospital, ready to receive a liver that was donated to him late Monday night. But the liver went to someone else Tuesday morning because Felix couldn't find $200,000 overnight to pay for the transplant.

As previously reported, the state’s health-care system for the poor stopped paying for most organ transplants on Oct. 1 because of budget cuts enacted by the State Legislature.

The Arizona Republic reported that Felix is the first liver-transplant patient known to be affected by changes in the state’s Medicaid program, but he won’t be the last.

The newspaper reported that approximately 100 Arizonans enrolled in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System are awaiting transplants that are no longer covered by AHCCCS, and 60 of them have liver disease related to hepatitis C, as Felix does. Transplant is their only cure.

Patients who lost transplant coverage have been allowed to stay on the waiting list, but when a match is found they must come up with the money right away.

Patients who can't afford the surgery after finding a match are placed on a hold list until they can pay for it, the newspaper reported.

Felix’s wife has applied to the National Transplant Assistance Fund in an effort to raise money for her husband's surgery.

See Earlier Story and Read Arizona Republic report