Most transplant teams, knowing that hearts are in huge demand, set an informal eligibility limit of 70.
Cheney is not the first person over 70 to get a heart transplant. He is, however, in a small group of people who have gotten one. Why did he?
Cheney has an advantage over others. It is not fame or his political prominence. It is money and top health insurance.
Heart transplants produce bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The drugs needed to keep these transplants working cost tens of thousands of dollars every year. Organ donations are sought from the rich and poor alike. But, if you do not have health insurance you are far less likely to be able to get evaluated for a heart transplant much less actually get a transplant.
The timing of Cheney’s transplant is ethically ironic given that the battle over extending health insurance to all Americans reaches the Supreme Court this week.