by Jim Nintzel
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Congressman Raul Grijalva jump in today with a letter urging Gov. Jan Brewer to restore funding:
We write to you today to bring to your immediate attention a life-threatening crisis facing a fellow Tucsonan, David Hernandez.
Mr. Hernandez is a 48-year-old father and grandfather who worked in the construction industry for all of his adult life. Over the course of a career spent operating heavy equipment in dirty and dusty conditions, Mr. Hernandez contracted interstitial fribrosis, an illness that involves progressive scarring of the lungs.
Mr. Hernandez initially was accepted into the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System and preapproved for a double lung transplant. But because of state budgetary issues, on Oct. 1 the state canceled his transplant along with the transplants of nearly 100 other Arizonans. This decision amounts to a death sentence for Mr. Hernandez.
Mr. Hernandez contacted our offices and said he is attempting to raise, through contributions and other means, the $200,000 cost of a privately funded transplant. But that is a daunting and difficult undertaking.
We understand the challenges our state budget is facing in this difficult economy. That is why we supported the extension of enhanced federal matching funds for AHCCCS which raised Arizona’s federal match from 65.8 percent to 75.9 percent, providing the state with $7.7 billion in FY2010. We supported this funding for Arizona along with a maintenance-of-effort
requirement to protect Medicaid consumers from the cuts you proposed in Arizona’s FY2011 state budget.
Arizonans get it. In 2000, the voters of our state passed Proposition 204 to increase eligibility for AHCCCS from 33 percent of the federal poverty level to 100 percent, adding childless adults, parents and people with disabilities. The FY2011 state budget proposal disregarded the voters’ choice and slashed funding for AHCCCS and KidsCare by attempting to reduce eligibility levels that had been specifically mandated by voters.
While the maintenance-of-effort provision that we supported in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act blocked these cuts and protected hundreds of thousands of Arizonans on Medicaid, the state Legislature, with your support, ultimately enacted devastating cuts to critical services such as transplants.
State economists say restoring funding for transplants will cost Arizona $1.4 million next year — less than Arizona pays to operate its prison system for 10 hours. The projected cost of the transplant program is less than one-tenth of the reported cost to repair the roof of Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum — a project paid for with federal stimulus dollars.
We also understand that some have said passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act played a role in forcing Arizona to eliminate its transplant program funding. This is untrue. Arizona officials voted to cut funding for transplants before passage of the Act. And, as the experiences of every other state illustrate, there is nothing in the federal Act precluding states from funding lifesaving medical transplants.
Various reports have quoted you and others in Arizona state government as describing transplants as “optional.” We strongly disagree with that characterization for medical procedures that determine the life or death of our fellow Arizonans.
We urge you — in the strongest possible way — not to solve the state’s budget problems on the backs of people such as David Hernandez. You hold in your hands the lives of these men and women of Arizona.
Member of Congress
Raúl M. Grijalva
Member of Congress