Major kidney charity denied aid to patients who didn't attend clinics of corporate donors, lawsuit claims

A federal whistleblower lawsuit claims the American Kidney Fund provided financial aid to patients of its two biggest corporate donors, the dialysis chains DaVita and Fresenius, while denying aid to patients at other clinics, a practice violating anti-kickback laws, according to The New York Times.

The American Kidney Fund provides financial aid to patients who need dialysis treatment. It is one of the largest such charities in the U.S. The lawsuit claims the charity began tracking donors in 2009 and created a blocked list of dialysis clinics whose patients would not receive aid, while continuing to donate to patients at DaVita and Fresenius.

David Gonzalez, a former employee who worked at the American Kidney Fund for 12 years before being terminated in 2015, filed the lawsuit in 2016. It was unsealed the week of July 29, 2019, in Boston. The Justice Department issued subpoenas regarding the accusations in 2017 but said it would not join the case.

The American Kidney Fund said it fully cooperated in the investigation and is in compliance with federal agreements governing its charity program. "We now know that this suit was brought by a former employee who, prior to making this complaint, was terminated for cause," said LaVarne A. Burton, the charity's president. 

DaVita released its own statement and said, "The Department of Justice has looked at this matter and decided not to pursue any action against DaVita." Fresenius and Mr. Gonzalez's lawyer both declined the Times' request for comment.

Editor's note: This article was updated Aug. 6 at 3:50 p.m. 

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