Thursday, March 31, 2011

House Democrats: ‘Pressure’s on for GOP to restore transplants’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Transplant patients and House Democrats are urging Republicans to act now to restore transplants after Gov. Jan Brewer reversed her stance today after six months of opposition to grant the life-saving procedures.

After at least two Arizonans died, Brewer finally said today in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that she would support restoring transplants (see letter). But that action still depends on the Republican-controlled legislature to make it happen in their budget, and even then, the restoration wouldn’t take effect until at least 90 days after the budget is signed.

“After six grueling months of living each day like it’s their last, this is exciting news for all of the men and women who need transplants in order to live, but we aren’t out of the woods yet,” said two-time transplant recipient and House Minority Whip Anna Tovar. “Republican lawmakers still refuse to restore transplants, and Gov. Brewer still hasn’t signed a budget. They need to be held accountable, and now the pressure’s on for them to act.”

Tovar, who underwent two bone-marrow transplants for leukemia, has been a champion for nearly 100 Arizonans who need transplants to live.

On Oct. 1, 2010, transplant cuts went into effect and nearly 100 Arizonans were denied medical care for transplants. Reinstating transplant funding this year would cost $1.2 million, or one tenth of 1 percent of Arizona’s total budget deficit. For a timeline on the transplant issue, go to:

In response to Brewer’s requests, Tovar and several other Democratic lawmakers have proposed several bills to fund transplants. One of Tovar’s bills, HB 2605, restores transplant funding by closing Arizona’s Accounting Tax Credit Loophole. This bill would end a tax credit of up to $10,000 each that big corporations and special interests receive just to do their taxes and would bring in $20 million. Brewer has ignored these proposals.

Kim Vega, sister of Douglas Gravagna, who needs a heart transplant, said she is cautiously optimistic and thankful for Democrats’ help when Republicans and Brewer turned a blind eye for nearly half a year while her brother suffered.

“This is only a flicker of hope, and we will continue this fight that I’m in not only for my brother but also for all transplant patients who need this vital care in order to survive,” Vega said. “We are thankful that Gov. Brewer seems to finally be listening to us after these long months, and I want to thank Rep. Tovar and all of the Democrats and Arizonans who helped us when no one else would. We hope that Republicans finally act so that we can have a positive outcome. Everyone deserves a chance at life.”

Tovar said she will continue to work with all transplant patients to hold Brewer to her intentions.

“I know that these families and their loved ones are fighting for their lives and I know how difficult that can be,” Tovar said. “It’s time to hold government accountable and make sure Republicans listen to We the People.”


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