STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Democratic lawmakers, transplant patients and doctors urged Gov. Jan Brewer and Republican lawmakers today to take immediate action to correct their admitted “mistake” of cutting health care for transplants.
So far, Republicans have taken no action in 68 days since their cuts to transplants took effect on Oct. 1. Meanwhile, transplant patients and their families are waiting desperately for the life-saving procedures.
“At this point, Jan Brewer is a one-person death panel,” said incoming Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira. “Brewer describes these transplants that she chose to ‘discard’ as ‘optional.’ A transplant isn’t an option for someone who is fighting for their life under Brewercare.”
Brewer’s office lied by blaming the new federal health care law for their own state cuts to transplants — Republicans voted to cut transplants before the federal law passed.
Democrats are urging Brewer to use federal stimulus dollars or call a special session immediately to save the $1.4 million transplant program. According to state economists, Brewer has $30 million in discretionary stimulus funds. She recently used $2 million on an algae program and $20 million to fix the roof of the Coliseum.
According to state economists, Brewer claims she has used the $30 million, but has not disclosed where she spent the money. She also has not disclosed that information to the public and has not responded to lawmakers’ and reporters’ public records requests to uncover how she spent Arizona’s money.
“People’s lives are at stake,” said Rep. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13), a two-time transplant recipient. “I know that these families and their loved ones are fighting for their lives. As a transplant survivor, I know the difficult times they face. It’s time to hold Republicans accountable for wrong choices they made before another Arizonan dies.”
Dr. Maryl R. Johnson, president of the American Society of Transplantation and medical director of heart failure and transplantation at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, stood with transplant patients Randy Shepherd, Francisco Felix, Tiffany Tate, Douglas Gravagna and their families, as well as the family of Mark Price to call for action.
"The American Society of Transplantation is grateful for the ongoing dialogue and interaction with Arizona state leaders on this critical life and death issue,” Johnson said. “This is not a partisan issue. We have had positive conversations with leaders from both political parties as well as the governor's office. That said, an immediate solution must be identified before any Arizonans die awaiting life-saving donor organs. The real life repercussions of the Medicaid cuts we are discussing today will not simply reduce an individual's quality of life, rather they will determine whether or not an individual lives or dies. The modest savings achieved through these coverage cuts are not worth the loss of human life."
Photo: Senate Staff: (l to r seated): Tiffany Tate, Francisco Felix, Randy Shepard, Dr. Maryl R. Johnson, Douglas Gravagna, (back row far left) Shelly Gerhart (mother of Mark Price who recently passed away)
Second photo: Francisco Felix, Lois and Bob Tate