ATLANTA – More than three-dozen indigent patients, many of them illegal immigrants, will continue to receive dialysis treatment for another year under a new agreement between Atlanta's safety net hospital and private clinics, a spokesman said Monday.
Under a new agreement, Emory Healthcare will take three of the 38 patients, while Fresenius Medical Care and DaVita will take five each as charity cases, Grady Memorial Hospital spokesman Matt Gove said. That means Grady will pay nothing for the treatment of those 13 patients.
The remaining 25 patients will get treatment at Fresenius at Grady's expense, as they have since October when the hospital closed its outpatient dialysis clinic for financial reasons. The cash-strapped hospital received no federal money for treating the illegal immigrants.
The patients need regular dialysis two or three times a week to survive. Under an earlier agreement with Fresenius, Grady had agreed to pay for their treatment through Aug. 31. But the patients had worried over much of the last year about what they would do after that deadline.
The new agreement extends treatment through Aug. 31 of next year.
"During the course of the next year, we'll be working with the patients, as we have been, to help them find a longer-term solution, and we'll be working with providers to see what can be done to help these patients," Gove said.
The patients will meet with financial staff at Grady — as all Grady patients do — to assess their need and to determine whether the patients can pay any of their own costs, Gove said.
Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older, covers routine dialysis for U.S. citizens regardless of their age. But illegal immigrants are ineligible.
Hospitals can get reimbursed by Medicaid, the state-federal program that helps low-income people, when they provide emergency dialysis for illegal immigrants in life-or-death situations. But the reimbursement doesn't come close to covering what hospitals spend.
A group of 33 dialysis patients sued Grady last year, claiming the hospital was abandoning them. A judge threw out the case in December, but it is set to be heard in state appeals court this fall.