The American Kidney Fund is one of the largest charities in the country, with an annual budget of over $250 million. Its marquee program helps pay insurance premiums for thousands of people who need dialysis, a lifesaving and expensive treatment for kidney failure.
The organization has earned accolades for its efficient use of the money.
Under an agreement with the federal government, the Kidney Fund must distribute the aid based on a patient’s financial need. But the charity has resisted giving aid to patients at clinics that do not donate money to the fund, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The actions have limited crucial help for needy patients at these clinics. The agreement governing the relationship between the group and the companies forbids choosing patients based on their clinic.
In multiple cases, the charity pushed back on workers at clinics that had not donated money, discouraging them from signing up their patients for assistance. Until recently, the Kidney Fund’s guidelines even said clinics should not apply for patient aid if the company had not donated to the charity.
“I watched many patients who were not able to get that assistance,” said Elaine Brecher, a former social worker at a small clinic in rural Arkansas. After an application for one patient was declined, she said, she did not apply for others, because a colleague believed that only clinics that donated could refer patients.
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