Medicare will begin paying for life-saving liver transplants for adults for the first time, the government announced Friday.

In a move long awaited by people suffering from liver ailments, the Health and Human Services Department issued requirements for liver transplant reimbursement, along with recommendations for which patients are best suited for the procedures.Medicare, which pays for medical care for the elderly and disabled on social security, previously would pay for some children to undergo liver transplants but considered the operations experimental for adults.

"We are ecstatic. We are getting calls every single day from people who don't have the funds to be put on the list (for a transplant)," said Thelma King Thiel, president of the American Liver Foundation.

The decision will now allow those who do not have private medical insurance or enough money to pay for the operations to undergo the procedures, she said.