Sunday, June 20, 2010

A preview of coming attractions

W.C. Varones turned us on to the following:

With her lung capacity at 25 percent and dropping, 27-year-old Tiffany Tate was approved for a double lung transplant at Tucson's University Medical Center.

Tate, who has the genetic disease cystic fibrosis, began carrying her cell phone at all times, hoping to hear from the transplant center. The wait for matching donor lungs, she was told, could be between two months and one year.

That was April 20.

"I got to the point where I knew I was ready. I was excited," said Tate, who lives in Chandler.

Then the bad news.

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System announced it would stop paying for lung transplants as of Oct. 1.

AHCCCS officials say the cuts were necessary to keep the state's form of Medicaid from operating at a deficit.

Call it whatever you want, just don't call it rationing.

The cuts represent a savings of about $4 million per year, AHCCCS officials say. AHCCCS spokeswoman Monica Coury said her agency had the "horrible task" of putting together benefit reductions, and that the transplants affected represent a small number of patients.

"We looked at the clinical data, reviewed the literature nationally and looked at our own outcomes," she said.

A lung transplant does not cure cystic fibrosis, Coury said.

"Patients with cystic fibrosis who get a lung transplant might get extra time with a good quality of life, but inevitably the CF will reinfect the new lung," she said. "It's a horrible discussion to have, but that's the situation."

Yeah, it's not as if the lung transplant will actually cure cystic fibrosis. After all, what's all this nonsense about quality of life, any way? They've got costs to contain there in Arizona and that really is the bottom line.

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