Citizens Reprimand Grady Board over Proposed Cuts

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(APN) ATLANTA — Grady officials said Monday they want more information before voting on a proposal that could change the service delivery model at Grady Memorial Hospital.

In their meeting today, January 05, 2009, Members of the Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation (GMHC) did not even discuss a proposal that would require Fulton and DeKalb County patients who earn between 126 percent and 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines to pay 40% of their bill, up to 25% of their annual income.

As APN reported when we broke this story in December 2008, patients from other counties earning at this level would pay 70 percent of their bill.

Furthermore, an individual earning $13,000 per year or less [125 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines] would still receive free care if they are from DeKalb or Fulton.

Patients in other counties earning at this level would pay half the bill.

Under current rules, all Fulton and DeKalb patients earning less than 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, or $26,000 per year, receive free care at Grady. Those from outside these counties currently pay 30 percent.

The GMHC Finance Committee discussed the matter during its meeting earlier Monday, noting the idea could raise $2.5 million for the financially troubled hospital.

GMHC chairman Pete Correll stressed Board Members are looking for more data and input from Grady employees as well as the community before taking a vote.

Still, nearly two dozen community members attended the Board Meeting to express their concerns.

“We’re disappointed in you,” State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), co-chair of The Grady Coalition, said Monday. “We need ya’ll to put aside this proposition forever.”

Grady is known for being the region’s safety net hospital for poor people, providing 40 percent of indigent care in Georgia. Fort and other Grady Coalition members worry that implementing such a proposal could leave many without any healthcare options.

“If these Draconian cuts are put in place, there will be thousands of people without healthcare,” Fort said. “If you change the criteria…it would make sick people sicker. There is no doubt people will die.”

APN learned about the proposal from the Coalition in December after five group members met with Grady CFO Michael Ayres to view a presentation he described as “a series of recommendations by management.”

After viewing notes taken by Coalition members during that December 12 meeting, APN attempted to set up an interview with one or more Grady officials who could explain the matter further.

Grady spokesperson Denise Simpson explained in a December 16 email that officials “won’t discuss any proposed changes in the Grady Card eligibility guidelines until a final proposal has been developed and presented to the board.”

Two days later, the Coalition held a press conference denouncing officials for considering any changes. Grady issued a statement later that day in response to what they called “inaccurate” remarks made during that press conference.

“Grady does not and will not deny care to low-income patients in need, and we will continue to assess each patient’s financial contribution for that care on a case-by-case basis,” the statement read. “We do, however, believe that individuals who have some ability to pay should pay something for the services they receive.”

“We are disappointed the coalition has decided not to work with us,” the statement added. “But Grady Health System remains committed to finding solutions that are not only consistent with our mission, but also are focused on our long term stability.”

Rev. Timothy McDonald said Monday the Coalition “is more than willing to be in any conversation.” Fort, though, said the group needs “all supporting documentation” of the proposal so the community is clear on what is happening.

The GMHC will meet again on March 2, 2009, but Correll cautioned that members might not be ready to vote on the matter at that meeting either.

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News, and is reachable is jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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