Hospital’s fundraising suggestion for heart transplant candidate sparks debate

A hospital’s denial letter to a heart transplant candidate went viral after incoming U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted about the situation on Nov. 24, touching off a debate about Medicare for all and the costs of American healthcare in general.

The letter from Spectrum Health’s Heart & Lung Specialized Care Clinics to 60-year-old Hedda Martin of Grand Rapids, Michigan, said she wasn’t currently a candidate for a heart transplant due to “needing [a] more secure financial plan.” It suggested she fundraise $10,000 on her own to afford immunosuppressive medications.

“Insurance groups are recommending GoFundMe as official policy — where customers can die if they can’t raise the goal in time — but sure, single payer healthcare is unreasonable,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, mistakenly referring to Spectrum Health as an insurance company.

Martin's story apparently reached hundreds of people willing to help. Her son, Alex Britt, created a GoFundMe page on Nov. 24 and it had raised $28,095 as of Monday afternoon.  

“While it is always upsetting when we cannot provide a transplant, we have an obligation to ensure that transplants are successful and that donor organs will remain viable,” Spectrum Health said in a statement published to its website Nov. 24. “… While our primary focus is the medical needs of the patient, the fact is that transplants require lifelong care and immunosuppression drugs, and therefore costs are sometimes a regrettable and unavoidable factor in the decision making process.”

The hospital system said it also partners with patients to help them “identify opportunities for financial assistance.”

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