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R.I. Prisoner Gets a New Liver that Nobody Wants to Pay For

Rhode Island bureaucrats are tossing around a state prisoner's liver transplant like a hot potato. Too chicken to advocate for the humane treatment of prisoners or to explain how the lifesaving operation will be paid for.

Jose Pacheco, a 27-year-old prisoner serving a 6 1/2-year sentence for robbery, became the first Rhode Island Department of Corrections (DOC) prisoner to receive an organ transplant in August 2012. The surgery, which was performed in Boston because Rhode Island hospitals do not currently perform liver transplants, cost about $1 million, according to estimates.

An official DOC statement said it was unclear how much of Pacheco's hospital bills the state will pay. It's possible he qualified for Social Security benefits before he was incarcerated, in which case Medicaid would cover about half of the costs.

The DOC has said that, so far, the state's been billed about $110,000 for Pacheco's supervision while he was in the hospital. But Dawson Hodgson, a Rhode Island state senator, complained that taxpayers in the state will likely end up paying between $400,000 and 550,000.

"It is a sort of lose-lose situation for the taxpayer." Hodgson said. "It can amount to torture if you let someone die without healthcare. At the same time, $1 million is a tremendous amount of taxpayer resources, whether it is coming from the state or federal government, put into any person's healthcare, never mind someone who is a drug dealer and a thief."


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