Benefits

Madison, WI: Another twist on ‘concierge’ medicine makes Madison free clinic possible

By STEVEN ELBOW | The Capital Times

greetings-from-madison-wisconsinAUGUST 20, 2013 – Earlier this year, Rod Keller needed about $600 for lab work to get his annual prescription for diabetes medication. For a part-time, property maintenance worker, that’s a lot of money.

“I really couldn’t afford to do it,” says Keller.

Concerned about Keller’s health, his employer told him about a free medical clininc on Madison’s west side.

“They got my blood work and got it done for free,” Keller says. “And they prescribed some medication for me that’s been helping my diabetes tremendiously — saved me a ton of money that I didn’t have.”

Then his employer went a step further. The clinic, Our Lady of Hope, funds itself in part through a “concierge” medical service, based on a model in which wealthy patients pay a fee for unlimited access to a physician. But Our Lady of Hope, a Catholic, pro-life health service, charges only $900 to $1,500 a year for access to a primary care doctor.

Keller’s fee, paid by his employer, is $1,200.

Called direct primary care, the concept is gaining momentum. I wrote about a local doctor starting a similar practice last week. But Our Lady of Hope provides similar services for about 119 “benefactors,” plus it operates on donations and free lab work provided by St. Mary’s Hospital.

Will Schupp, the local direct care provider, provides lab work at cost.

But at Our Lady of Hope, the profits are used to fund free medical care for the uninsured. The clinic, at the Olde Towne Office Park on Odana Road, sees an average of about seven patients a day.

“Our goal is to never turn anybody away,” says Julie Jensen, the clinic’s director of development. “But right now we only have one doctor, so based on patient load, we occasionally have to ask someone to come back at another time, but they can generally get in in the next day or so.”

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