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Man may be step closer to new liver
Justin Trutt is hoping a letter he received this week telling him he had been approved for Social Security and Medicaid disability benefits will lead to him receiving a liver transplant.

The letter was the culmination of years of trying to find insurance coverage to help the 21-year-old get the medication and the operation he needs to replace the liver he says is now failing him.

Trutt, who splits living with his mother in Glynn County and a grandmother in McIntosh County, says he is keeping his spirits as high as he can while he battles nearly constant illness brought on by his condition.

The good news came after Trutt met with aides to U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-1, who he said had medical records from his liver transplant at age 5 sent to the Social Security Administration.

His search for health insurance started after he was dropped from Georgia's Medicaid program for low-income individuals when he turned 18 and theoretically was able to work. With his body rejecting his transplanted liver, creating physical limitations and causing him to be sick often, finding a job with medical insurance benefits has been impossible.

Affording private medical coverage proved to be just as difficult. Premiums for someone in his condition were quoted as costing more than $1,000 a month, and that was with a deductible reaching well into five digits, Trutt said.

"The Social Security people told me they didn't know why I was kicked off (Medicaid) in the first place," Trutt said Thursday.

Without coverage and unable to hold a steady job because of his condition, Trutt said he has struggled to pay the $1,700 for the monthly medication he was prescribed. That led to doctors telling him he was unlikely to get a transplant because he had not been taking all of his prescriptions.

With insurance coverage now coming his way and medications costing him just a few dollars each, Trutt said doctors told him they would discuss how to proceed with getting him a new liver, a process that could take several months of preparation.

That puts Trutt in a race against time.

But holding out for a few more months pales in comparison to the ordeal Trutt has described in navigating a complicated health insurance system.

He had hoped to get insurance through the Affordable Care Act, with its guaranteed coverage requirement, when the law took effect.

While he could get coverage, he could not afford the level necessary to pay for an organ transplant.

Since he could not afford coverage under the federal law, Trutt was told to apply for coverage through Medicaid, the federal and state program for low-income individuals. There, too, he ran into problems.

He said because Georgia, where political opposition to the federal law is strong, has not expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, he was unable to get approved.

Now, after approaching Kingston's office with his troubles and receiving the letter putting him in the existing Georgia Medicaid program, Trutt said he is cautiously optimistic a liver transplant is in his future.

"You can't get too down about it, but you can't get your hopes up too much either," Trutt said.

* Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment and other local topics. Contact him at mhall@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320.



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