Saturday, April 10, 2010

No Money for Lung Transplants

PHOENIX -- Geneva Prendergast can't wait to hit the slopes up north for a snowboarding lesson.

That's something the 26-year-old Mesa woman never could've done prior to undergoing a double lung transplant last month.

"I couldn't breathe, you know," Prendergast said. "And, taking a deep breath -- I couldn't do that."

Prendergast suffers from cystic fibrosis.

Prior to her surgery at Saint Joseph's Hospital, Prendergast's lungs were less than 20 percent functioning.

Now, her lungs function at more than 100 percent.

Prendergast says her new lungs have given her a new life -- one her fiance, Marc Badalucco, is anxious to share with her.

"We're gonna get married," he said. "We want to travel. It's just everything and anything we've wanted to do -- we're making a list and checking it off."

AHCCCS, Arizona's Medicaid program, paid for Prendergast's double lung transplant -- which can cost anywhere from $250,000 to $650,000.

Because she was so sick, prior to surgery, she couldn't work.

And, because she has a pre-existing condition, private insurance companies wouldn't cover her.

Soon, those who are in the same boat Prendergast is in, may not be afforded a "second chance" at life.

In mid-march, the state legislature voted to eliminate AHCCCS funding for lung transplants and some heart and liver transplants.

Prendergast's mother, Barb Garday, says she's worried for those who may be left out.

"It's almost like, if you can't afford private insurance, you're life isn't worth as much as those who can," said Garday. "What will they do? I don't know what we would've done."

The elimination of funding for some transplants is part of an larger plan for cuts to AHCCCS -- which will likely go into effect in October.

It's something many legislators say they didn't want to have to do.

But, right now, with limited funds, they don't have a choice.

Original article at