January 5, 2011

National Patient Advocate Foundation Calls on Arizona Leadership to Reinstate Medicaid Benefits for State's Patients Awaiting Transplant

Nation's Leading Patient Advocacy Policy Organization Calls on Governor Brewer, State Leaders to Restore Access to Life-Saving Transplants for Arizona's Nearly 100 Patients in Need

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF) – a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the mission of creating avenues of improved patient access to healthcare through public policy reform at the state and federal levels – called on Arizona's key lawmakers today to reinstate benefits for the state's adult Medicaid patients awaiting certain types of organ and bone marrow transplants, thereby reversing the state legislature's recent decision to deny coverage for these types of services.

Following a budget-cutting decision which became effective in October 2010, Arizona no longer funds certain types of transplants for adults under the state's Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). These types of transplants include lung transplants, liver transplants for hepatitis C patients, and some bone marrow and pancreas transplants, which at times can be the only option for survival for patients facing certain types of cancer and other serious illnesses. In letters sent to Governor Jan Brewer, Speaker of the House Kirk Adams, President of the Senate Robert Burns and AHCCCS Director Thomas Betlach, NPAF urged the state's policymakers to reverse this decision in order to make certain that all Arizona's patients in need have access to medically necessary transplants.

"As an organization dedicated to helping ensure all critically ill patients are able to access the life-saving care they need, we felt it necessary to speak out on behalf of Arizona's Medicaid patients who are now unable to receive essential transplants as a result of the state's recent budget decision," said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, Founder and CEO of NPAF. "Though we appreciate states' severe funding shortfalls, we must join the growing chorus of leading medical centers, experts and physicians, and patients themselves in urging Governor Brewer and the state's leadership to reverse this dangerous position that could be truly devastating for AHCCCS patients awaiting transplant."

In voting to cut funds for covering these types of transplants, state lawmakers relied upon data provided by the AHCCCS showing a limited success rate for the procedures. However, many experts and advocates – including AHCCCS patients who have had successful organ transplants prior to this decision – have questioned the accuracy of this data.

As stated in its letter, NPAF is pleased that the new coverage guidelines exempt pediatric patients, but remains seriously concerned about the denial of benefits for transplants which remain the standard of care for adult patients. For example, allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplant (a type of transplant involving bone marrow, peripheral blood or cord blood), which is no longer covered for adult patients on AHCCCS, remains the standard of care for patients suffering from several types of leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, among other serious conditions.

"According to national data, there are over 2,000 patients on transplant waiting lists in Arizona, and of these, 97 are AHCCCS patients who are affected by the reduction in state benefits. These are 97 lives that are now without hope of getting coverage for their transplants without a reversal in this policy," added Davenport-Ennis. "We must speak up on these patients' behalf, and we sincerely hope to work with Arizona's lawmakers to ensure that all patients in need of transplants, regardless of reimbursement model, have access to these life-saving procedures."

NPAF and its companion organization, the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF), were established in 1996 on the principle that health care is a basic human need and shared social responsibility. NPAF is dedicated to working with Congress and all levels of government to overcome challenges and create solutions that will allow for high-quality, affordable health care for all. In 2009, PAF case managers assisted 55,384 patients, each with chronic, life-threatening or debilitating conditions struggling to access health care. Additionally, PAF responds to millions of online requests for information or chat line support. For more information see www.npaf.org.

SOURCE National Patient Advocate Foundation


Also See:
-- NVHR Blasts Arizona Medicaid's 'Inhumane' Policy Depriving Hepatitis C Patients Liver Transplant Coverage
-- Budget cuts stop Phoenix man from getting new liver
-- Arizona Cuts Financing for Transplant Patients

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