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Brewer needs scolding for cynicism on transplant funding

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Brewer needs scolding for cynicism on transplant funding

  • Brewer in February.
    Alyson Zepeda/Cronkite News ServiceBrewer in February.

It was all over the news Thursday: Gov. Jan Brewer had relented and found a way to fund organ transplants for Arizonans who can't afford them. Just shy of 100 Arizonans were left without coverage for their transplants when funding was cut for the program last October.

The trouble is that she didn't actually do that.

What she did was send a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius asking for permission to cut $500 million in funding from the state's AHCCCS program. AHCCCS is Arizona's version of Medicaid. In return for this, Brewer would restore funding for the transplant program.

What she proposed is eliminating new enrollments for childless adults and for "higher income" families (defined as 75 percent of the federal poverty level). These cuts would make 160,000 Arizonans ineligible for the AHCCCS program. Brewer also proposed other changes that would force 200,000 who are on the program to pay higher fees and co-pays if they continue to want health services.

So Brewer is asking to trade funding for surgeries that could save the lives of more than 90 Arizonans (two have died since October) for health care for 360,000 Arizonans.

The part she is hoping we all forget is that the transplant funding is actually part of the AHCCCS program. The cuts she is asking for permission to make will eliminate or limit services, transplants and all, for many of the people she wants credit for trying to save.

The transplant program costs $1.2 million, a small amount compared to the budget gap she's ostensibly trying to fix.

Neither she nor the legislature have had the time nor inclination to find the money to fund the program despite public pressure to do so. They did, however, find time to pass, in a special session no less, and sign into law a large corporate tax cut package. The amount of that package, $538 million, is just a shade larger than the AHCCCS cuts she is asking for permission to make.

Which brings us to the most ridiculous part of this letter.

Brewer doesn't need permission from Secretary Sibelius to take action on transplants. She can ask the Legislature to fund them. There are at least two proposals to fix transplant funding that members of her party in the Legislature have taken no action on. She could have used stimulus money that she controls to do so. She used $1.7 million of stimulus money to repair the roof of Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, but somehow not one cent could be found for the transplant program.

There have been ways to fund the program, there just hasn't been the will.

We shouldn't give her congratulations for seeing the light, instead we should be scolding her for her cynicism.

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