One of the New Year resolutions for Grady Hospital in Atlanta is similar to what many of us pledge. The difference is, while we resolve to lose weight, Grady resolves to lose less money in 2009.
Not an easy task for a hospital that ended 2007 $67 million in debt plus owing another $63 million in debts, mostly to Emory University & Morehouse University who provide staffing via their medical schools.
Grady has already done quite a few things to stem the flow of red ink. They have eliminated non-emergency clinics that provided things like eye exams. They have cut back over 400 non-essential personnel.
What more can they do?
Well, they could start charging for services.
As the designated "charity" hospital, Grady delivers free or nearly free services to 250,000 individuals every year.
Most of these live in Dekalb or Fulton county.
The total population of Dekalb & Fulton combined is roughly 1.5 million residents. You don't have to be a math major to figure out that 1 in 6 residents in greater Atlanta are receiving services at little or no charge, courtesy of the taxpayer.
But how many of those are truly deserving of financial assistance?
We don't know for sure, but we do know that Grady recently notified 1400 people that they no longer qualify for free or reduced fee services.
Some of those who were "cut off" include . . .
One person receiving discounted care was found to have a $750,000 house, he said. Some students have been receiving free care by only submitting their county address, when they should be the responsibility of their parents, he said. Other people hide the fact that they have insurance.
The article does not say where this $750,000 home is but you can bet it is not Section 8 housing.
Right now, Fulton and DeKalb county patients who earn less than 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines —- or $26,000 for one person annually —- can receive free medical care.
That seems rather generous to me. Apparently the board feel likewise because they are proposing changes to the qualificiations.
Under the plan, Fulton and DeKalb patients who earn between 126 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines can receive a 60 percent discount on their bill.
Even if these proposals go through, they will still provide free or reduced care to those who are truly in need.
But of course these changes are not without opposition.
State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), a leader of the Grady Coalition, said the proposed changes would hurt uninsured working-class people already struggling to make ends meet. He said the changes will dissuade many from seeking care at Grady.
“If I know there’s going to be a big bill hanging over me, I may not go,” he said.
“People will die for lack of care.”
Vincent Fort has a panache for over-stating the situation.
None the less, Grady is resolving to change the way health care is paid for in Atlanta and it is about time. Heck, my home isn't worth $750,000 so why can't I get free health care?