A new/old model for Catholic health care? An interesting small clinic.

With all the interest in the global impact of the Catholic Church through the election of a new Pope, we need to remember the local impact of the work of good lay people, formed by the Catholic Church.

Here is a good example.

I have gotten to know a small clinic in the Diocese of Madison.

Here is some information about them.

In a time of such great change and uncertainty about health care and health insurance, when big government may make a complete nightmare out of health care, it could be that this model will be of use in the future.

In centuries past, the Catholic Church – especially in the form of small lay groups such as the confraternities which rose up after the Council of Trent to perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy – was a great provider of services.  The government is taking over everything now.  When that whole thing collapses, what will be left?   We might need old/new models.

Here is information sent to me by …


Our Lady of Hope Clinic, located in Madison, provides 100% pro-life primary care to all patients; and free care to the community’s uninsured population. The Clinic, the only one of its kind in the State, is based on St. Luke’s Family Practice in Modesto, CA. Our Lady of Hope Clinic is primarily funded by benefactor patients who pay a modest annual fee for concierge medicine. Their fee entitles our benefactors to direct access to a personal physician, Dr. Michael Kloess, twenty-four hours a day, seven days each week, as well as additional benefits. More importantly, because benefactors pay an annual fee for unlimited medical care, Our Lady of Hope Clinic does not bill insurance providers. Our patients and our medical provider are empowered to make important medical decisions, not a representative of an insurance company. The benefactor fees are then available to support the Clinic’s philanthropic mission of treating uninsured individuals free of charge.

According to Kaiser State Health Facts 2010 report, 9% of the Wisconsin population has no health insurance, and 5% of Wisconsin’s children are uninsured. In just under four years, the number of uninsured recipients seen at the Clinic has increased from an average of 2 patients per day in the first six months of operation, to an average of greater than 6/7 patients per day in the winter of 2012/3. Since we opened, Our Lady of Hope Clinic has provided nearly 2,500 free Clinic visits to uninsured members of the community who would not otherwise had access to a doctor.

Although the majority of our recipients come from the Dane County area, we have provided free medical care to people from as far away as Appleton, Milwaukee, La Crosse, and Green Bay.  Because Our Lady of Hope Clinic is the only Clinic of its kind in the State, recipients are willing to travel to Madison from across Wisconsin to access the free healthcare we provide. While our healthcare professionals at the Clinic strive to treat every uninsured person who walks through the doors; we are, unfortunately, not always able to do so. Occasionally we forced to ask some would-be patients to return to the Clinic on another day due to our physician-patient load limitations. However, unlike most free and reduced-fee clinics in the area, Our Lady of Hope Clinic is unique in that we offer walk-in appointment times for our recipients, four days a week; effectively eliminating the need for those without insurance to wait months, or longer, to see a doctor.

Because Dr. Kloess, a family practitioner, practices medicine that is consistent with the Catholic healthcare tradition, patients know upfront where he stands on issues of medical ethics. Dr. Kloess does not provide or refer for abortion, sterilization, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, or write prescriptions for contraception. But at Our Lady of Hope Clinic, we know that building a Culture of Life isn’t just about what we don’t do. Dr. Kloess helps empower married couples to achieve or postpone pregnancy naturally by offering natural family planning medical consultations and NaProTECHNOLOGY services.

For more information about Our Lady of Hope Clinic, please visit our website at www.ourladyofhopeclinic.org, or contact Julie Jensen, Director of Development, at Julie   -AT- ourladyofhopeclinic -DOT- org, or by calling (608) 957-1137.

Pretty cool.  And they have a DONATE page.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. mamajen says:

    A doctor from my parish recently won an award for her work at a clinic she co-founded in my city. She and other doctors volunteer their time to provide free services for the uninsured one day per week. It’s funded by a local charity. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when they put their minds to it! My family is working on building up our emergency fund, and I was grappling with how we would save up enough for healthcare should my husband lose his job. COBRA is insanely expensive, and I have no idea what the deal is with Obamacare…so it was really nice to learn there’s a free option in my area if the worst should happen.

  2. chantgirl says:

    Awesome! Do it as long as it’s legal. I would pay a yearly subscription fee for a pro-life doc if we lost our insurance. After the employers start dropping employees’ insurance en masse this might be necessary.

  3. GregH says:


    How many kids do you have?

  4. UncleBlobb says:

    Yet another example of “Save the Liturgy, Save the World” in action.

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  6. St. Epaphras says:

    This clinic is doing a good work, especially the pro-life part. However, a sliding scale based on income, family size and other pertinent factors makes more sense to me than the “free to all the uninsured” model. It gives people a chance to pay what they are able to for their medical care, same as they must do for everything else. Not everyone has insurance all the time for all family members, but this does not mean they expect to pay $0 for doctors, tests, and so forth. For some, $0 would be reasonable, but certainly not for ALL the uninsured. I think the idea that no uninsured persons ever get to see a doctor or get a prescription filled or have medical tests is ridiculous and unrealistic. What about cash? Doctors of all types are most happy to get it. People who have it should pay what they are able to for their medical care if they choose to not pay insurance premiums — for whatever reason. However, if fees are based on the actual financial situation of the person or family and not just on one thing: “Oh, you don’t have insurance?!?! You poor, poor thing!! Okay, free for you (no matter what)”, then more money comes in to the clinic and the recipients also feel they are not just getting a hand-out. Not every poor person wants a hand-out.

    Insurance for every little aspect of medical care is what drove prices sky-high in the first place. My husband and I have very mixed (mostly negative) feelings about health insurance unless it is through an employer who can offer it at good rates for all family members. It is exorbitantly expensive and often goes unused. I am looking very seriously into joining one of the Christian medical sharing groups which will be accepted in lieu of insurance. The Catholic one, Solidarity HealthShare, is still working on all the details. Prayerfully it will make it, but there are others if it does not. I have a good friend who was recently in a dreadful car wreck with her large family. She is in one of those health sharing plans and is very happy with it. They got all the care they needed, including trauma center, hospital stays, surgery and physical therapy. With no insurance. And they are definitely not rich. She says she expects that all the expenses will be “shared”. I’ll be asking her after a while how that goes, but before the accident she already felt it had been working very well for herself (a widow) and her six boys. They can afford it, you see, unlike the insurance she did have, which they could not afford.

    My friend feels as I do: although money is tight, we do not prefer free care but had rather pay, either by sending in a monthly “share amount” or by paying cash as we receive the care. Yes, free to the homeless mentally ill person, please! And others in the very worst situations! And rates within the capacity of the rest of folks to pay.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    By the way, there are several Catholic hospitals in the Midwest which have charitable funds for poor people. One applies and receives up to a 100% remission of an entire bill. This includes birth of babies and care for preemies. Two of the very large hospitals which are not Catholic have a fund run by the doctors themselves who contribute from their own salaries to keep the fund going. Of course, all this is ending with Obamacare.

    I know two girls who kept their babies instead of aborting, as the doctor did not charge them for the births.

    My son had a $12,000 hospital bill for pneumonia when he was 10, (it was a strain immune to most antibiotics and he had to have special care), and the hospital paid all but $2,000, as the state where we were living had no health care for poor kids at that time. I was very grateful for the charitable fund. I had just lost a job through cut-backs in teachers.

    This is real medical care, not a plan which includes the murder of children in and, most likely at some time, out of the womb.

  8. maryh says:

    @St. Epaphras
    While the sliding scale sounds good in theory, in practice it just leads back to the recordkeeping and bureaucracy nightmare. Much better to simply request that people donate what they can than to get into the whole mess with figuring out how much each uninsured patient can afford.

    This is, in my opinion, exactly the model we should use for providing health care in this country. What is most amazing is that the model actually works – by cutting out all the higher costs of applying for insurance, they can actually cover their costs of providing the services using the benefactor program. Basically, some people who feel they can afford it pay a set amount per year to get medical care at the clinic, and the amount they pay is enough for both their own care and that of the uninsured.

    Since for the time being my family still has health insurance, we’re not a benefactor, but they are one of the charities we give to.

    There should be clinics like these in every city and every town in the United States.

    This is what the point of “lay participation in the Mass” was supposed to be. Not women and men taking more roles during the Mass, but women and men taking the grace and nourishment received at the Mass out in the world to bring Christ to others in their work as laypeople. Exactly as the laypeople running this clinic are doing.

  9. Matthew says:

    I pay $1650 annually to belong to a concierge practice. They do bill my insurance as any other doctor would (when I had BCBS they were not a participating provider so I paid them and submitted the claims for reimbursement – not a difficult process) .

    I’d happily pay twice the fee if my doctor would open a free clinic funded by our concierge memberships.

    I’ve sent him a link.

  10. mamajen says:

    @Greg H – Sorry I didn’t see your comment until now! I am currently pregnant with my second child.

  11. sulldjjr says:

    Aside from the saving of souls, there is probably no more pressing challenge to bishops (American and otherwise) than healthcare. Leaving aside the scandal of having largely abdicated responsibility for medical care to the secular state, the Church as an institution seems to have almost no ideas on how to provide an alternative to those systems (insurance, hospitals, individual providers, etc) which ignore (and even promote the violation of) Catholic doctrine. How can we live authentically Catholic lives if we have no choice but to pay premiums to insurance providers that cover morally objectionable practices, or use hospitals that perform morally objectionable practices?
    A few weeks ago, I read of a Christian health sharing network (Samaritan Ministries – http://samaritanministries.org – one among several) that, at first look, appears to offer a viable alternative to conventional healthcare insurance. Why isn’t the Church conceiving of and promoting these alternatives? Part of the answer, no doubt, lies in the fact the the Church has become a major government contractor, and is therefore inclined to seek accommodations so that it can continue thus.

    Where is the forward thinking? Can the Knights of Columbus or other lay organizations take the lead here?

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