Waiting to Exhale

Dr. Joel Cooper pioneered lung-volume-reduction surgery to save the lives of thousands of emphysema patients. Now he wants the government to get out of the way.

Lowe's decision -- though clear and direct -- doesn't mean Medicare will change its policy. But it does mean, at least for the Farrises, that their fight is over. On March 28, Medicare told Barnes-Jewish that it would not appeal the decision. Medicare said it would pay for Jim's surgery, and the Farrises were due a refund. They received payment last week.

Nearly two years have passed since the surgery. The Farrises know that if they hadn't had any money, Jim would probably be dead today. With Medicare and most private insurers still refusing to pay for lung-volume reduction, the Farrises are left to wonder.

"If you have money, there is hope," says Linda. "If you have it, you can get surgery and a new lease on life. But what happens to poor people? What happens to people who don't have this money?"

Linda and Jim Farris: When Medicare denied approval for lung-volume-reduction surgery for Jim, the couple was forced to use their savings. "It was either hang it up or cash in the IRA," says Jim. "If I hadn't done it, I wouldn't be alive today."
Jennifer Silverberg
Linda and Jim Farris: When Medicare denied approval for lung-volume-reduction surgery for Jim, the couple was forced to use their savings. "It was either hang it up or cash in the IRA," says Jim. "If I hadn't done it, I wouldn't be alive today."

For more information, seeRemoving A Doorstop.

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