Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our Lady of Hope Clinic in Madison, WI

Dr. Michael Kloess and a visitor to Our Lady of Hope Clinic
 Each year more than one in nine Wisconsinites goes at least part of the year without health insurance. In Dane County alone, that adds up to more than 40,000 men, women and children who go uncovered annually.

While BadgerCare, Medicaid and other government programs offer coverage for many in poverty, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites fall through the cracks. These uninsured patients usually include the "working poor"--men and women who have jobs that provide too much income to be eligible for government assistance, but don't offer health coverage or a high enough salary to purchase individual coverage. In fact, about three out of every four uninsured people are employed.

Five years ago, those patients had few options when it came to having their basic health care needs met. But since opening in the spring of 2009, Our Lady of Hope Clinic has provided more than 3,000 free clinic visits to patients without health insurance--free of charge.

In offering health care access to those who can't afford it, OLHC helps prevent those in need from falling into even more desperate situations:

Uninsured residents who have slipped through the cracks often end up in the emergency room for routine ailments like ear infections. And without access to basic health care, manageable conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol often go untreated until they turn into serious problems that result in preventable emergency room visits or hospital stays. Already struggling families end up facing mountains of debt that could be avoided.

A Unique Apostolate
Given the Church's 2,000 year tradition of serving the poor, the concept of a free clinic for the poor is nothing new. But Our Lady of Hope Clinic serves as a 21st century model for charity--a template that might serve as the inspiration for Catholic charitable organization for many years to come.

That's because OLHC serves more than just the poor. The clinic is funded primarily through benefactors, who, for a fixed annual (or monthly) contribution are eligible to receive their primary care for the clinic. That level of contribution varies by age, the average is $1,200 a year, with steep discounts for families and clergy.

In supporting the clinic, benefactors receive unparalleled health care, including:

•Direct access to a personal primary care doctor, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week
•Extended appointment times of at least 30 minutes, every time
•Same-day or next day scheduling
•Unlimited care - Benefactors may see their physician as often as necessary without incurring additional charges

If you're wondering how $100 a month gets you around-the-clock access to a personal doctor who will give you half hour appointments (compared to a national primary care average of five to seven minutes), the answer is found in the clinic's low overhead. Our Lady of Hope Clinic doesn't accept any private or government insurance. By avoiding both insurance and billing, the clinic also avoids burdensome government reporting requirements.

As a result, there's no need to retain staff to handle billing, insurance claims, reporting, scheduling and many other minutiae responsible for driving up the costs of health care. The money saved by the clinic's low overhead is used to fund the free care for uninsured patients--who comprise the vast majority of those treated at our Lady of Hope Clinic.

 Authentic Catholic Medicine
While the Church has long asserted that every human being has a right to health care, she does not suggest who is obligated to provide that health care. In the opinion of many, the answer to that question is the government.
But from a Catholic perspective, there are many problems in using the government as the vehicle for delivering health care. Primary among these is that there is nothing charitable in government-provided health care. St. Paul tells us that whatever good we do, if we lack love, we are "a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal." And we simply don't pay our taxes out of love.
Even before Obamacare passed, Medicare and Medicaid have turned health care into a resounding gong by dehumanizing men and women--reducing patients into outcomes. In our technocratic, government-driven system, the success of health care is based on questions like "Did the patient die?" and "How much did it cost to make sure he didn't die?"
Certainly, these questions are important, but they're not the entire story. Our Lady of Hope Clinic provides more comprehensive view of health care, ensuring that the patient is served as a person created in the image and likeness of God rather than as a data point. That's why the appointments are 30 minutes long. It's also why at OLHC, the poor receive their care alongside the benefactors who pay for that care.

The Dignity of Human Life
You won't be surprised to learn that Our Lady of Hope Clinic is a thoroughly pro-life health care facility, refusing to provide or refer for abortion, contraception, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization or sterilization. The clinic also provides natural family planning and NaproTechnology services to treat a great array of women's health issues. Because these services are rare in the medical community, they are available to benefactors, uninsured recipients and a third category of patients who can visit the clinic on a fee-for-service basis (NFP/Napro services only).
My wife has a particular health problem that has caused us to struggle with infertility and repeat miscarriages. She spent years getting bounced around doctors who could never provide a definitive diagnosis. By her second OLHC visit, Dr. Michael Kloess had a firm diagnosis.
As a result, Dr. Kloess helped us navigate a very rocky pregnancy last year, and we've got a baby to show for it!

Keeping it Going
Our Lady of Hope Clinic recently celebrated its fourth anniversary. And while the clinic is doing great work, it hasn't always been easy. Launching and funding a new apostolate is a difficult venture, and the Kloess family has made unfathomable sacrifices to make OLHC a reality.

OLHC is only the second clinic of its kind in the United States. At a time when a hostile administration seems intent on eliminating every last vestige of Catholic influence in health care, Our Lady of Hope Clinic stands out as a light in the darkness.

So will you join me in helping them? Click here to make an online donation (or for information on donating via mail). Be generous.
If you're in proximity to Madison, I encourage you to sign up to be a benefactor patient. Contact OLHC Director of Development at You can also sponsor other benefactor patients.

Finally, keep Dr. Kloess, his family and Our Lady of Hope Clinic in your prayers.

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