"I appreciate the need for budget restraints," Dr. Andrew Yeager, director of the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program at the Arizona Cancer Center, told the Times. "But when one looks at a potentially lifesaving treatment, admittedly expensive, and we have data to support efficacy, cuts like this are shortsighted and sad."
Low income patients will have to pay for transplants themselves. Since these operations can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, that pretty much turns this policy, which removes these patients from eligibility, into a death sentence.
There is talk of reversing the legislation in 2011. People could die by then. The money saved is under $5 million. Governor Brewer has approved money to repair a sports stadium roof at a cost over $1.5 million.
Arizona physicians and transplant centers have unsuccessfully lobbied for temporary funding. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's office described it as a "literally as a last resort" option to bridge the state's budget shortfall.
But Democrats, such as State Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, weren't having any of it. "We made it very clear at the time of the vote that this was a death sentence," she said. "This is not a luxury item. We're not talking about cosmetic surgery."
The law has been dubbed across the country by opponents as Arizona's "Death Panel" -- a reference to Sarah Palin's false yet influential claim last year that the Affordable Care Act permitted government officials to deny care to patients at their discretion.
The Associated Press chronicled the plight of Arizona patients on Medicaid who need organ transplants and must produce the money or face death.