DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children plans to break a 90-year tradition in order the remain financially viable. It will soon begin billing patients to help pay for expenses.

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Since the hospital’s founding in 1921, it has not charged for care, relying solely on donations from individuals, corporations or foundations.

The hospital says in polling patients it believes 90% have third party coverage from private insurance companies, Medicaid or children’s health programs.

Four-year-old Georgia Gross is a special needs child with a shot at being a regular kid, despite not having either thumb. She had a hypoplastic thumb on her right hand, but it wasn’t connected.

Her mother, Linda Chido explains the dramatic surgery involved. “They amputated the thumb, the hypoplastic thumb, and they moved the forefinger to the thumb position.” She continued, “It was exciting to see her hold a crayon and color with a crayon–couldn’t do that before.”

The family makes the trip from Austin about every six months as they plan for more surgeries on the girl’s other arm, which sports a red cast. They say they couldn’t afford it if they had to pay out of pocket anywhere else. “I don’t know if we could get her health care coverage, and that’s a pretty scary prospect for her,” Chido told CBS 11.

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She called the current policy “Awesome.”

Hospital officials say they’ve tried hard to maintain the philosophy. “We never required any payment for any services, regardless of families’ ability to provide that or not,” said Mark Bateman, the vice president for communications.

But changing times are forcing the hospital’s hand. “We will continue to see the patients that need to special care and attention that we provide here at the hospital, regardless of their ability to pay,” said Bateman.

“We were told this was the best place to come,” said Chido, speaking of the hospital’s reputation for orthopedic work for children.  Scottish Rite handles only referrals from other hospitals or doctors.

Chido says their work gives her hope for Georgia. “She can do everything a typical kiddo can do….. we just gave her….the potential for more functionality.”

The hospital says the change in philosophy was a painful and thoughtful process two years in the making; it’ll be another two months before they begin asking patients or their families about its need for insurance or other forms of payment.

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