September 3rd, 2010
08:45 AM ET

Illegal immigrants to receive dialysis care

A tentative agreement has been reached to provide 38 Atlanta, Georgia, area patients – most of whom are illegal immigrants - with continuous dialysis care, free of charge. The ruling settles a case that drew national attention and raised thorny ethical and financial questions about who should administer health care and pay for the medical bills of illegal immigrants.

Last year a dialysis clinic attached to a public hospital closed, leaving about 60 patients with no place to get the life saving treatment. They were offered help to return to their countries of origin by Grady Memorial Hospital.

Undocumented patients wary of offers to return to home countries

After some controversy, Grady agreed to pay for the dialysis of the patients who remained in the area for a year until other arrangements could be made. The latest agreement will send the 38 remaining patients to receive charity care at Fresenius Medical Services, Emory Hospital or DaVita Inc.

Exactly how many patients each center will receive and the expenses have yet to be worked out, said Matt Gove, a spokesman for Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital.

Five patients who returned to Mexico died. Whether their death related to inadequate access to dialysis is unknown, Gove said. Four patients who remained in Atlanta and continued to receive dialysis also passed away, he said.

Even with dialysis, only 35 percent of patients survive for more than five years. The process is draining and occurs three times a week in three to five hour sessions.  Dialysis can only replace about 13 percent of the kidney function. End-stage renal disease or chronic kidney failure can only be fully treated with a transplant.

soundoff (297 Responses)
  1. kyle

    What a Joke!!! I'm a legal citizen, work, pay taxes, and I'm stuck with hospital bills..............ok, lets give illegals free health procedures........

    September 3, 2010 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. SchoolNana

    I am reading these comments in Halifax, NS in Canada while Earl is getting ready to visit us tonight. I live in a country where everyone, I mean EVERYONE has access to medical care – it is not free as so many of you think – we have paid for it in our taxes for years – welll since Tommy Douglas fought and had his head kicked in for his beliefs in it – every human being on this earth has the right to medical care – and sure I can see why you are ticked off – but they are human beings – would you like your loved ones to be treated any differently? and for the people who think those mass murders today are alright – it takes care of a few more of THEM for you doesn't it? They were from South America – I am a cancer survivor – and for those of you who doubt our system – I am 20 years free and was told at the time of diagnosis that I needed to get my affairs in order – HA CANADA

    September 3, 2010 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lc

      Is Canada being invaded by millions of illegals like the US is? Hadnt heard about that one.

      September 3, 2010 at 16:48 | Report abuse |
  3. SchoolNana

    To PortlandDave – I think you just went a bit over the top there – you seem very angry and maybe in need of some services yourself. Oh and speaking for my country, you don't get a bill if you cannot afford it (we help those who come to our shores)

    September 3, 2010 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TammyB

      Well, this country is not there yet, and I'm not so sure that the healthcare that the current admin has come up with is the answer either, but hopefully someday, we will work it out. On another note, Canada is ahead for it's own people, however, you cannot act like you'll take care of everyone either. I have read that there are rules Canada currently has that won't take people who are currently sick into their country to become citizens. Also, throughout history, Canada has limited the amount of immigrants that they allowed into the country as well (the Chinese ban of the 1800's for one). That's all that most of us want here is our government to enforce it's current laws, and reform those that are not so efficient. Every country in this world has immigration laws, including yours.

      September 3, 2010 at 20:08 | Report abuse |
  4. Richard Ringgold

    I am going to borrow an idea from the construction workers in NY about the mosque thing... they may refuse to work on the damned thing, to their credit. I don't usually love union ideas, but these folks are on to something. Hey, even Teddy Kenedy had some good ideas.

    What if ALL workers refused to perform a service for obvious illegals?? Yeah, racial profiling, which our nation was founded on (killed the indians, enslaved Africans, shunned the Itallians and Irish, jailed the Japaneese citizens, taxed the white rich, etc.)

    Think of it, WE could do what the US gov't won't do. Of course employers will probably fire the first few, but how many nurses giving dialisis can you fire? If EVERYONE refused their services... well, you can;t stop a stampede!!

    Yeah, I know that it's morrally wrong, but what if we could retake America by being UN American? Better yet: what if we could retake America BEFORE it's too late...

    September 3, 2010 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sel

    You know, if all the people whining about their tax dollars paying for illegals healthcare in here wouldn't continually fight government run healthcare, we wouldn't have so many problems. Let's get one thing clear- health insurance isn't expense because illegals use our hospitals. It expense because health insurance companies are FOR PROFIT. They DO NOT care about your health. They care about THEIR BOTTOM LINE and they will make your life extra hell at every opportunity. Why is this so hard for you to understand?

    September 3, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lc

      And what dont you understand about millions and millions of people accessing a health care system they arent supposed to and the effect this has on everyones costs?

      September 3, 2010 at 16:50 | Report abuse |
  6. DP

    Whoever made this decision (one individual or a committee or panel) should foot the bill.

    September 3, 2010 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Human being then American

    "ILLEGAL" immigrants are also human beings...what a selfish society we live in! Would'nt you give just about anything to save the life of your family member? But no all we hear is...I dont want to pay for this or that...they are people!!! Human!! please have some compassion! They are not from another planet! They are flesh and blood like you and I !! And may I remind every American reading this that all of your ancestors were "illegals" No paper...just jumped on a boat/ship and decided to come here for a better life! (without papers!) Get over it all of you!

    September 3, 2010 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lc

      My ancestors were in Virginia in the 1600's and in NC in pre-Revolutionary times...sorry no Ellis Island for them to go through. That argument is so ridiculous. The United States is a fully developed and populated country. Every country started from some form of immigrants so you get over it. American citizens have a right to demand the government do its job and protect this country and they have failed miserably at that job.

      September 3, 2010 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
  8. jim s

    I have worked in dialysis for 28 years. No American is ever turned away from dialysis. There is medicare/medicaid funding available although not at 100%. Yes, the US government demands that ER patients (legal/illegal) must be stabilized (the government does not provide that funding). For the permanent dialysis pt that means dialysis. Due to liability issues, most hospitals will not discharge until outpatient dialysis is arranged. Most outpatient dialysis units insist on some form of payment. As they are a business and must be profitable, most refuse illegal non funded patients. Thus the patient remains in a high cost hospital setting.....for a long time. Senator John McCain sponsored a bill to pay for outpatient dialysis for illegals (it did not pass) which is a cheaper alternative than a hospital stay. However, repatriating the patient would be far less expensive. Senator McCain, why has that bill never been introduced ?

    September 3, 2010 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. just a dumb US taxpayer


    September 3, 2010 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. edthefedup

    After reading all the outrage, there's only one logical conclusion, which is that most people would say, let them die. And not just dialysis patients – anyone seeking emergency medical care without proof of citizenship that they can present when they need medical care, and proof that they are able to pay for necessary care (the poor citizens in this country consume many times more of our healthcare dollars than illegal immigrants), do not treat them.

    Lock the doors on the hospitals and ERs. If an ambulance brings someone in after a car accident or with a heart attack, and that person can not produce a passport or birth certificate, the ambulance should just leave the person at the curb until they can produce proof of citizenship, and proof of ability to pay for their care. Unconscious? Tough. Birth certificate or passport back home? When the family can produce proof of citizenship and ability to pay, treatment can begin.

    That's the only logical way to assure that no one gets treatment at anyone else's expense.

    If this is how people in this country truly feel, however, our morals and ethics have become pathetic and wizened, and we are more brutish than human.

    September 3, 2010 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. CSnord

    This is just BONEHEAD stupid. If they are illegal, why in the world are they not on a transport back to where they came from? They don't need free medical care! They need a ride home!

    September 3, 2010 at 16:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. FedUp

    It is interesting to me that the AZ government passed laws to combat the illegal immigration issue, and is completely under fire for doing so! It seems to me, from reading many posts here, that the "will of the people" is for dramatic changes to the status quo! Why is there so much opposition when somebody gets off their @ss to actually make those changes? We should be adding energy to the movement that has been started in AZ so these types of legislative changes can gain momentum!

    September 3, 2010 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. TammyB

    This is one of those situations where I think the country of their origin should help pay for their care and dialysis, to defray citizen/taxpayer's costs. That would make sense, since their own country/countries may not have the facilities to help them and I don't want to see people who can be made comfortable die because they are just illegal. However, I also don't want a continuing stream of illegals here seeking medical benefits that I have to pay for. Where ever their country of origin is, they should be made to at least help pay the hospital/dialysis bills. That would be more than fair.

    September 3, 2010 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. TammyB

    This is one of those situations where I think the country of their origin should help pay for their care and dialysis, to defray citizen/taxpayer's costs. That would make sense, since their own country/countries may not have the facilities to help them and I don't want to see people who can be made comfortable die because they are just illegal. However, I also don't want a continuing stream of illegals here seeking medical benefits that I have to pay for. Where ever their country of origin is, they should be made to at least help pay the hospital/dialysis bills. That would be more than fair and makes sense.

    September 3, 2010 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Abi

    What about the American people without healthcare. I have an Aunt who is over 65 and is near end stage kidney disease and can’t get help or Medicare. What’s wrong with this picture? Is America trying to look good to the Mexican’s to gain votes down the road. Let’s help our OWN people first.

    September 3, 2010 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 4, 2010 at 04:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Bridget

    The US should send a bill to Mexico for all of the medical, food, and education services provided to its citizens while here illegally.

    September 4, 2010 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. tigerjoe

    Even Ray Charles could see through all this BS... the classic change the subject (from illegal to racism).....we need to vote all these sorry politicians out of washington because they have sold the American people out......they should all be put on a rail and run out of town ...don't they swear to uphold the constitution and laws of our country? It's very plain to see that they are not doing so, nor do they intend to do anything as demonstrated by the justice dept., in fact they are trying to stop the folks that actually do enforce our countries laws......absolutely blows me away.....no wonder the rest of the world is tired of the US telling them how to do things, when we can't even do our own thing right!

    if it costs too much to get rid of the ILLEGALS....how much does it cost to keep them? Betcha itcosts more to keep them! and we could use the jobs building roads and hiring bus drivers and gards to send these criminals back?

    September 4, 2010 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Lucy

    "Chris–Money over a human life? I'll always go with HUMAN LIFE – borders are FAKE!"

    Chris, how about your front door? Is that fake? Would it be ok with you if people insisted on coming into your home and eating your food? Food is vital. Without it, people would die. So are you saying it's ok for homeless people in your area to just come right in and make themselves at home in your home?

    September 4, 2010 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. coloradofarmer

    It is interesting to see this subject discussed now.... I have been watching this for over 10 years, as a Physician.

    My legal patients (immigrant or not), often have enormous trouble covering the cost of their dialysis – aggressively being billed by the hospitals and dialysis centers... resulting in personal bankruptcy, financial devastation.
    My illegal patients receive 100% free dialysis care – NOT a one (or 2, or 3 time emergency), but 3x per week for years. There is no expectation whatsoever that they will contribute financially to their care.

    The last time I read about this, illegal immigrants from Mexico were walking across the Arizona border, presenting to the ER at local Tucson hospitals, and then receiving free hemodialysis. I do not know what is happening there these days. A simple phone call by CNN to the CEO will get you an answer.

    In our hospital, I receive a call from the ER, saying "Mr. so-and-so is here needing dialysis. He is uninsured ( and often we get several different names,addresses, SS#s given to us). You must come down and admit him to the hospital for this".
    My colleagues and I then admit him, dialyse him, the social workers spend many hrs trying to sign him up for Medicaid ( yes, that happens all the time. I personally see it). This is all provided to him, 100% for free.
    The same thing happens if he presents with pneumonia, a broken leg, etc. etc. He is admitted to the hospital, stays for several days ( or longer... our most recent illegal immigrant stayed on a medical floor for 4 months – he would wander the halls, chat with the nurses,chat on the phone, his family would come in and spend the day with him, they would all prepare meals in the kitchen on the floor that is provided for all patients. Ultimately, the hospital paid for his flight ( and his family members') back to Central America.

    Is this kind, just, fair, sustainable... and to whom it is kind, just, fair, sustainable?

    As a person of integrity, I encourage everyone to call for themselves and find out what is going on. Providing emergency medical care to illegal immigrants is only a tiny fraction of the care that I, personally provide to them, each and every day. The non-emergency, ongoing medical care is massive.

    P.S. I am leftist politically, voted for Obama et al, belong to Amnesty Internatl, Doctors of the World.

    September 4, 2010 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. js

    i read until number 5 and it said it can't break the ameri. bank my grandpa used to get them 3times wk 4hours it costs 28,000 a month his ins. paid it but he had to paid 500 month prem. what is wrong w this

    September 4, 2010 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Philip McCleary

    illegal immigrants should have one right and one right only and that is the right to be deported. Let them get treatment in the country they come from. I need medical care that I am not receiving because these people and other tens of thousands are being treated. This country needs to start taking care of Americans and and sending the rest back to where they came from or better yet shoot them when the cross the boarder in violation of our laws.

    September 5, 2010 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Doc

    It is unfortunate, but we cannot provide care to the entire world. Let each individual country handle the care of it's own people. I am all in favor of providing emergency care to all, but long term care is a different story.

    September 5, 2010 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Scary greedy

    This isn't a booboo with a band-aid.....Its dialysis!!!! Did Christ charge people for the miracles he performed........You people are way too greedy.......You pay the fifth SMALLEST personal income tax in the WORLD under countries that don't have standing armies......Please stop the tax talk....It makes you look small.....

    September 5, 2010 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Scary greedy

    Welcome to the GOP....They start two unfunded wars then bytch about taking care of the wounded........oops wrong comment section..........I meant to say, They defend illegal hiring and slave wage labor while pi zzing on the constitution.......

    September 5, 2010 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
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  26. Ron

    Want to be mad at someone? Then get mad at the CRIMINAL BUSINESSMEN who aid and abet the illegal alien by hiring them!
    No matter what we do the illegals will come if they can find work. Stop the Jobs, stop the illegals!
    That is part of the problem no one wants to acknowledge that the illegal alien problem is one created by Us and not the illegals! Economies good, who cares if we have illegal dishwashers, gardeners and builders; everybody's making money it all good! Economy sucks then it "It's the illegals fault!" We allowed the Business people of the nation to create and perpetuate this problem yet we do nothing to insure that they stop doing this. We don't need a fence we need to arrest and imprison the Greedy Business people that are hiring the legal and thus are destroying our Nation! No jobs and 90% self deport saving us Billions in costs, and making the one left easier to catch!

    September 5, 2010 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. gladynanna

    While I feel for those people it is time to start taking care of Americans first..After every american has had needed treatment these individuals should be treated!

    September 5, 2010 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Dale

    HOSPITALS and hospital laboratories; THEY DEPEND ON SICK PEOPLE paying for their SALARIES and EQUIPMENT through the health care insurance and through government Medicare also state tax.

    HEALTH CARE it is one giant corrupt money making snowball that keeps getting bigger and bigger.

    Big CEOs and shareholders wanting their profit and dividends.

    September 5, 2010 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. William

    Anyone who has fought with the V.A since the First Gulf War, like i have, can only gasp at how easy it is for anyone who is not a citizen to get services. My wife worked non-profit on the Gulf Coast and knows first hand how illegals use the system. The non profit counts how many hispanic displaced people they helped in order to ask for more money. Its business from the bottom to the top. Rich and poor stick their hand out for just sip from the river of money that flows from DC. Politicians know most Dems will vote Dem and GOP will vote GOP. For them its about votes. For us Citizens it means we are lied to, taxed to fund the very thing which divides us and set aganst each other.

    September 5, 2010 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Patrick McCormick

    There is nothing wrong with being a decent human being. We would provide dialysis to a murderer on death row. We have spent more money trying to save the whales. If we stood by and let someone perish when we had the power to help, it would be a criminal act.

    September 5, 2010 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Patrick McCormick

    The article itself is not so special, but the overwhelming negative response certainly is. I had to ask myself, where is all of this hatred for the Obama Administration taking US?

    There is nothing wrong with being a decent human being. We would provide dialysis to a death row murderer. We have spent more money trying to save the whales. If we stood by and let someone perish when we had the power to help, it would be a criminal act. What happened to good old Christian Kindness?

    September 5, 2010 at 17:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Amy

    Were talking about human life here....not illegal or legal....American or not...payment made or debt. You better quit worrying about the things you wont be taking with you on your way to meet your "maker" and start being compassionate about others!!

    September 8, 2010 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply

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    September 13, 2010 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Yosemite Sam

    In 2000 i was a student in Australia in my early 20s. The Immigration laws in Australia are extremely strict. I don't know if the policies changed ever since, but back then if you were illegal the Commonwealth of Australia was your meanest and fiercest enemy.
    It so happened that due to my college schedule and a problem with my bank, i was unable to pay for an air ticket to leave for the month gap that my visa didn't cover in order to come back to school in January. I didn't know the law so i thought i did the right thing and walked straight into DIMA (Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs). In less than five minutes my passport was taken, all my belonging were put into a lock box, including my mobile phone, and i was taken to a detention center by the immigration police.

    The immigration center was a nice facility but very bare, as i would imagine, just like a prison, it had huge walls surrounding the perimeter with barbed wire on top and video surveillance at every corner.

    Every day that i stayed there cost me 125 Australian Dollars a DAY. If i left before paying my bill, the Commonwealth would have prohibited me to re-enter the country unless the balance was paid.
    Also i was forbidden to reenter for three years, until 2003.

    All that for OVERSTAYING.

    You think it's harsh? Maybe i thought so at the time, because i was young, scarred and didn't know anything about the world, but to think of it now, Australia got it right. NO FREEBIES.

    America needs to follow this example before we all go down the tubes and end up like Mexico. I am GLAD for that lesson. I am GLAD i was deported. I am GLAD i was billed. Australia was never my country, and i RESPECT the Commonwealth for standing its ground.

    I only wish America will do the same.

    November 30, 2010 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
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