Atlanta hospital exemplifies healthcare troubles

As of late, the spotlight in the American health care crisis arena has been cast on that of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, which up until its Outpatient Dialysis Center’s close one year ago, provided free dialysis treatments to uninsured illegal immigrants. Upon its close, due to a patient lawsuit and public scrutiny, the hospital agreed to maintain providing life-continuing dialysis care to 38 uninsured illegal immigrants whose lives depend on dialysis treatments three times a week for a whole year. That year has now elapsed.

It is speculated that these patients will continue receiving dialysis treatments free of charge. Three to five patients will be taken in by nearby hospitals as charity cases and dialysis care for the remaining patients will be subsidized by Grady indefinitely. The agreement being negotiated has many shortcomings apart from the obvious; it also fails to address concerns for care of future illegal immigrants.

This case has come to symbolize the ever-growing health care debacle of the United States’ hundreds of thousands of uninsured illegal immigrants and the
taxpayers’ money that ends up caring for them.

However, aside from the obvious counterintuitive nature of taxpayers’ money essentially caring for illegal immigrants who have never paid taxes, this conundrum defies the new health care law, which maintains the federal ban on government health insurance for illegal immigrants, thus creating the perfect storm of discord on the political, ethical and societal spectra.

The whole purpose of the one year transition grace period that Grady allowed for the patients was so that they could make arrangements for continuing care once the year had elapsed, and yet 38 patients are still reliant on free dialysis.

And while Mexico’s health care system is mostly unequipped to pay the millions of dollars required in life-prolonging dialysis treatments for its citizens, let alone its expatriates, the Georgia counties of Fulton and DeKalb should no longer have to pay for them either.

Dialysis provides artificial replacement for
diminished kidney function in patients with renal failure. Each dialysis session costs around $100 which amounts to $300 per week, per patient. The hospital estimates
that since closing its clinic one year ago, it has spent more than $2 million on these patients’ dialysis treatments.

Even though we as “Vincentians” are inclined to want to pay for every uninsured Tom, Dick and Harry’s dialysis treatments, it’s simply not fair.

Considering the current economic climate of this nation and the world against the backdrop of our surmounting $13 trillion debt, it is counterintuitive for U.S.
citizens – taxpayers – to foot the bill for non tax-paying illegal immigrants’ medical care.

It is a harsh reality. However, these individuals are leeching on an already very imperfect system. They are at the end of their lives, sure, and they need these
treatments to live. Again, it is unfortunate, and it is not to say they are undeserving of these medically-necessary treatments-they’re just technically are not entitled to these services.

The growing debate of where the government and public hospitals should draw the line is a heated and tricky one. While it is fiscally irresponsible to continue to provide free care to illegal aliens, it is morally repellent to send them back to their countries to die. And Grady is just one of thousands of hospitals failing to make financial ends meet, crippled by its philanthropy. Therein lies the impossible task of brainstorming viable solutions to this metastasizing problem.

As it is, emergency rooms are full of illegal immigrants across the country, costing hospitals billions of dollars a year. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act requires emergency rooms to provide treatment for all patients. ERs cannot legally turn anyone away regardless of whether they have insurance or if they are legal. So where does it end?

It would be an understatement to say the United States health care system is severely crippled. With over 43 million uninsured taxpaying citizens in the United States alone, why should public hospitals have to pick up the slack for illegal aliens when the system cannot even care for the people who literally break their backs essentially funding this government and the hospitals via income taxes?