DALLAS — Nine years of treatment for 11-year-old Kaylee Wenzel's rheumatoid arthritis should have cost thousands of dollars.
"We do MRIs, we do X-rays, we do blood work," said mom Ruthie Wenzel. But has she ever been charged for it? "No, no... not at all."
But that's about to change.
Texas Scottish Rite Hospital was founded in 1921 by a group of Masons who wanted to care for children with polio — regardless of the family's ability to pay.
In the 91 years that followed, no patient has ever been charged for health care at the facility.
"It was hard for us to say 'charge' or 'bill.' We still hate to say that," said Scottish Rite CEO Bob Walker. But he said billing is something the hospital must do now to stay afloat in the future.
"As we go forward, health care is very expensive, and is increasing every year," Walker said. "Again, this additional support will help us support to the best we can the children we are here to serve."
Walker says Scottish Rite will retain its policy of never turning a child away — regardless of the family's ability to pay.
Steve Love of the DFW Hospital Council said he's surprised that Scottish Rite resisted this change for so long. "Scottish Rite opens its arms to everyone, and they're going to continue to do that," he said. "But if they can do some billing and they can do some collections to help supplement what they're doing, it will help them continue and grow their mission."
The Wenzels drive more than an hour to see Kaylee's rheumatologist. That's something they say won't change — even if it costs more when they get here.
"You can't put a price on the hospital," Ruthie Wenzel said.
About 90 percent of Scottish Rite patients have some sort of insurance, including Medicaid. Patients will be charged regular co-pays and deductibles as required by law.
In the interest of full disclosure, reporter Janet St. James has a child who is a patient at Scottish Rite Hospital.