If your life is threatened by renal failure, you may receive a kidney transplant thanks to Medicare. Except if you're an illegal immigrant. The Times profiles the struggles of Angel, a waiter with failing kidneys who is "so well liked at the Manhattan restaurant where he had worked for a decade that everyone from the customers to the dishwasher was donating money" to help. His siblings are donor matches, and the government will pay for the $75K/year dialysis but not a $100K transplant. “The ultimate irony is it’s cheaper to put in a transplant than to dialyze someone for the rest of their life," Bellevue medical director Dr. Eric Manheimer says.
Even more galling: the organs of deceased illegal immigrants are routinely and legally harvested. This doesn't strike Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, as a Catch-22. “They should not get any benefit from breaking the law, especially something as expensive as organ transplants or dialysis." Even if they already receive dialysis? “If they’re dead, I don’t have an objection to their organs being used. If they’re alive, they shouldn’t be here no matter what.”
Dr. Manheimer convinced surgeons at NYU's Langone Medical Center to waive the $20,000 in fees for Angel's surgery, but the administration refused to cover the rest. Another hospital told Angel to "come back when he had legal status or $200,000." Angel and his brother could get the surgery in Mexico, where it costs $40,000, but they would be forced to sneak in and out of the country, and would be prevented from returning to their children in Brooklyn, who are U.S. citizens.
Angel's 26-year-old brother, who works in a deli, told the reporter that they wouldn't give up. "He's more than my brother, he's like my father. If I can give him life, I have to."