No legal status, no transplant

We’ve all been there: You get sick, you go to the doctor, show them your insurance, and they help you. Unfortunately, for an Oakland man, an insurance card is not enough to save his life.

Jesus Navarro needs a new kidney. Without the transplant he will die. Navarro has a donor lined up — his wife — and insurance to pay for the operation. There’s just one small problem: Navarro is an unauthorized immigrant.

The CoCoTimes reports that UC San Francisco Medical Center is refusing to do the operation, because they cannot guarantee he will receive the care he needs following the transplant due to his unauthorized status.

UCSF’s Executive Director of Transplantation Reece Fawley told the Times that the clinic evaluates all patients prior to surgery:

“UCSF’s policy for financial clearance requires candidates to present evidence of adequate and stable insurance coverage or other financial sources necessary to sustain follow-up care long after transplant surgery. Immigration status is among many factors taken into consideration.”

At only 35 years old, with a young daughter, and a wife willing to give up her kidney, Navarro has a lot to live for.

Navarro seems like a safe candidate for a transplant considering he has had health insurance through Berkeley’s Pacific Steel foundry for 14 years. Even after his kidneys started to fail eight years ago and he begin dialysis, he continued to work full time. Life expectancy for dialysis patients is only around six years.

As if things couldn’t get worse, Navarro lost his job earlier this month following an immigration audit. His insurance is now likely to run out and he will have to go on Medi-Cal which won’t pay for all of the necessary medication to keep him alive, let alone for the transplant operation.

Critics argue that UCSF should perform the surgery since Navarro’s wife is donating the kidney and the operation would not be taking resources away from other patients. Others say that if the surgery is completed, it could lead to other unauthorized immigrants pushing for similar medical care.

Although he’s fighting for his life, Navarro says his first priority is to find a job so he can care for his family.