Donors are lined up, but insurance snafu delays Tri-City firefighter’s transplant

Ray Newton was excited to find out if he was going to get a new kidney.

After months of the West Richland fire captain spreading the word, several people had come forward as potential donors.

“It’s nice to see that,” Newton told the Herald. “When you hear them say you have multiple potential donors, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ … You can’t count your chickens before they hatch, but it gives you a little bit of hope.”

But just as soon as Virginia Mason Medical Center was preparing to test the potential donors, Newton got the bad news. His health insurance provider wouldn’t cover the transplant at that hospital.

It was frustrating news for the Benton County Fire District 4 firefighter, who is in a race against his failing kidneys to find a replacement.

Newton, 46, has spent about 20 years with polycystic kidney disease. The hereditary, degenerative condition causes growths on his kidneys and has left him unable to go out on fire calls.

Capt. Ray Newton of Benton County Fire District 4 in West Richland explains about the kidney disease he’s battling that also affects his father.

Capt. Ray Newton of Benton County Fire District 4 in West Richland explains about the kidney disease he’s battling that also affects his father.

He is looking for a replacement before he needs to start on dialysis, which would cost him his career.

It’s a journey that he has made with Virginia Mason, which had been authorized by the his insurance provider. But at the beginning of the year, the Washington Fire Commissioner Association switched providers to Cigna.

The district employees get their insurance through the association.

While Virginia Mason is in the new provider’s network, they aren’t authorized for transplants.

Transplant roadblock

Without having the authorization, any forward momentum was ground to a halt.

Not only does the insurance cover Newton’s medical costs, but it also pays for the donor to have

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