Administrators at Emory often say, a little wryly, a little proudly, that the Wesley Woods Center, a key component of Emory Healthcare, takes the concept of “nonprofit” to an art form. Patients and residents at Wesley Woods are part of the most rapidly growing segment of the population: those most likely to have complex, overlapping health problems and least likely to have either personal resources or adequate medical insurance. Although Wesley Woods’ state-of-the-art services draw many clients who do have coverage or other means to pay for care, the hospital treats with equal care and dignity those who have no money left and who are ineligible for federal or state programs.
     Wesley Woods frequently is either under- or simply un-reimbursed for the majority of the 30,000 older adults and chronically ill patients served each year in its hospital, outpatient clinics, and nursing care and retirement facilities. On average, the center loses $2.3 million every year, money that must be made up from charity—the biggest donor being the United Methodist Church—or from Emory itself. In fact, if Wesley Woods were not part of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and Emory Healthcare, its ability to exist would be imperiled. Here are a few of the people who are grateful that it does exist and for the ongoing lifesaving services that Wesley Woods provides.

Following early onset of a devastating disease, Harry was left alert but increasingly “locked in” his own body. Even as his disease worsened, he was determined to make the most of his life. He made it clear he did not want to be taken off life support, no matter what happened, in the hope that a cure would be found to reverse or stop the problems that were slowly freezing his body. He volunteered to participate in a research study. And while he could, he smiled, laughed, and joked with his doctors and the scientists working with him. But eventually, he became dependent on a ventilator for breathing, and even the muscles of his face started shutting down. There was nothing left that could be done for him in Emory University Hospital, and doctors suggested that he be moved to Wesley Woods Hospital, to its long-term acute care unit. Harry had no insurance, no money, no federal or state program to help subsidize the costs of his care. In financial parlance, Emory Hospital had simply “eaten” these costs while he was there—and the hospital now undertook to reimburse the cost of his stay at Wesley Woods, at $1,450 per day. He stayed there for three years, surrounded by caring nurses and staff, often visited by the researchers with whom he had earlier worked. By the time he died, Emory Healthcare had covered more than $1.5 million for his care.

Aftermath of a stroke
When Joe had a serious stroke, he was rushed to Emory Crawford Long Hospital. After a week, he recovered to the point where he no longer needed to be in an acute care hospital, but he was too disabled to go home. He had no savings and no insurance and was too young for Medicare. That’s when he became one of the numerous patients the administrators at Wesley Woods’ Budd Terrace quietly call “Emory-pays” —patients receiving nursing home care for which Emory Healthcare pays the entire $500-a-day cost. (Most patients at Budd Terrace are “private-pays,” with costs covered by insurance or private funds, while others are covered by charitable grants from the Jessie Parker Williams Foundation and the Wesley Homes Foundation.)
     At Budd Terrace, Joe received daily rehab, while social service case managers worked to find financial resources that would help him throughout the rest of his life. For Joe, this involved getting him signed up for Veterans benefits. A month after his transfer to Budd Terrace, Joe was accepted by an assisted-living facility. In addition to the unreimbursed care at Emory Crawford Long, Emory had spent more than $15,000 on Joe’s care at Budd Terrace and paid all the costs of his transfer to the new facility.

A raging infection
Within days after 30-something Heather arrived at Emory University Hospital, doctors were able to control the raging infection that had devoured part of her breast. She no longer needed acute care, but her doctors felt uncomfortable about releasing her with an open wound, even though neither they nor the hospital were being reimbursed for her care. So she was transferred to Budd Terrace for daily sub-acute care, and Emory began paying her charges there.
     When she arrived at Emory, Heather never expected to be in a nursing home facility where many of her fellow patients were in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. But she was grateful to be there. She was able to leave after three months (costing roughly $45,000), when she was well enough to be released to her mother’s home in another state.


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