Local News

Man Says Medicaid Wrong To Reject His Appeal For Lung Transplant

Posted October 19, 2005 7:30 a.m. EDT

— Allan Glenn is frail. The 20-year-old weighs 87 pounds because he cannot properly digest food. He relies on his girlfriend's support and a regimen of drugs to get him through the day.

He has Cystic Fibrosis. The disease attacks his lungs, and he requires constant breathing treatments.

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"My official prognosis, as of May, was a 50/50 chance of living two years in this condition," Glenn said.

Doctors told him his only hope is a controversial $400,000 lung transplant.

"I'm dead if I don't get it," Glenn said.

Most transplant centers denied Glenn's hope for new lungs because he has a rare bacterial infection that further complicates his Cystic Fibrosis. Then, UNC Hospitals agreed to help.

"I could get the same thing that most people take for granted: the ability to take a breath without even having to stop and think about it," Glenn said.

But Glenn's case shines a light on the real, often painful, balancing act state health leaders face in using tax dollars to pay for medical care. Though the lung transplant could be life saving, the state's $7 billion Medicaid budget is exploding. And state officials must ask: Is surgery worth the risk and the public money?

"It's gut wrenching," Dr. Allen Dobson, of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), said in a written statement. "But, this surgery is not a standard of care yet. It's still considered experimental."

DHHS rejected Glenn's application for a transplant because of his infection and weakness.

Frustrated but determined, Glenn's friends created a

Web site

to raise private funds and hope.

Glenn also said he believes Medicaid was wrong to reject his application for a transplant. He plans to appeal the decision.

"The time we spend together flies. It seems so fast," Glenn said. "I never want to say goodbye. I hope it lasts."