More than 120,000 people in the United States are waiting to receive life-saving organ transplants. For undocumented immigrants, transplant surgery isn’t an option. But the state of Illinois will now cover kidney transplants for all residents — regardless of immigration status.
Ten other states provide dialysis to undocumented immigrants, but starting Oct. 1, the new Illinois law will allocate state funds to pay for both kidney transplants and anti-rejection medications without proof of citizenship.
“When you are receiving dialysis and the state is paying $80-85,000 a year, it just makes more sense for the state to spend $30-45,000 for a transplant,” said Democratic Illinois state representative Cynthia Soto. “You are not spending all that money on dialysis, but you are curing someone.”
The law only covers kidneys. For those in need a liver transplant, some local hospitals are willing to do the surgery for free, but they need the proof of ability to pay for the anti-rejection medication. Activists say hospitals are discriminating against the undocumented and the uninsured.
Some hospitals said they are still studying the new legislation, but they insist they never discriminate against patients needing vital organ transplants based on their immigration status. For example, Northwestern Memorial Hospital said because of an organ shortage, decisions about who gets on the transplant list are made based on “factors that determine the likelihood of sustainable long-term outcomes.”
Doctor David Ansell, the chief medical officer of Rush University Medical Center, said taking care of undocumented immigrants will help solve the wider organ shortage.
“There hass been a reluctance on the part of the immigrant and the uninsured community to donate organs, because in their experience their community never receives them back,” he said. “But now we are going to be able to give them the opportunity to be evaluated and perhaps get a transplant. We think more people will donate, and that will provide more organs for everybody.”
CCTV America’s Roza Kazan reports.