Atlanta’s safety net hospital on Wednesday reached an agreement with a private dialysis provider to continue treating a group of indigent patients, some of whom became critically ill after their life-sustaining treatment was cut off last week when a previous contract expired.
Grady Memorial Hospital will pay Fresenius Medical Care to treat the nearly two dozen patients.
Most of the patients are illegal immigrants, and their treatment has been in limbo several times since budget cuts.
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.
Bineet Kaur, one of the patients, was elated when she heard an agreement had been reached.
Kaur came to the U.S. from India on a tourist visa in 2000 and applied for political asylum, saying she didn’t feel safe in her country as a single woman living alone. Her asylum request was denied, making her an illegal immigrant. She was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2003 and told she needed dialysis.
The announcement of an agreement may have come too late for Reina Andrade. The 33-year-old was also turned away from Fresenius last week and from Grady on Saturday. She became so sick Sunday that she passed out and her sister took her to a suburban Atlanta emergency room, where she got treatment. With prospects for future treatment uncertain, she boarded a plane Wednesday morning for her native Honduras, her sister said.
Andrade, who had lived in the U.S. illegally for 11 years, has needed dialysis for the last five years.