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2nd transplant candidate dies in Arizona

Jan. 6, 2011 at 10:53 AM

TUCSON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- A transplant candidate, pulled from a waiting list because Arizona enacted sweeping budget cuts, has died, probably due to the cutbacks, a hospital said.

The unidentified University Medical Center patient in Tucson had hepatitis C and was waiting for a liver transplant, but was taken off the list Oct. 1 when state lawmakers cut Medicaid benefits to 1.3 million adults to help balance the budget.

Cut services include certain liver, bone-marrow, heart, lung and pancreas transplants, as well as annual physicals, podiatry, insulin pumps and emergency dental care.

Savings are projected to be $5.3 million this year, officials said, but the state will lose about $20 million in matching federal funds.

"It's likely (the transplant candidate) died because they were unable to get a transplant," medical center spokeswoman Jo Marie Gellerman told The Arizona Republic.

Spokeswoman Monica Coury of Arizona's Medicaid program, formally known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, said it would be difficult to determine whether the patient died because he didn't get the procedure.

Gov. Jan Brewer's office said it had not confirmed if the liver patient was enrolled in AHCCCS.

The patient was Arizona's second transplant candidate to die after losing coverage due to the budget cuts, the Republic said.

Mark Price, a leukemia patient and father of six who needed a bone-marrow transplant, learned the very day the cuts went into effect that his doctor had found donor matches for a transplant.

Price suddenly could no longer afford the operation.

An anonymous donor stepped forward and offered the hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the procedure, but Price died Nov. 28 before the operation could be performed.

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