It seems that all the discussion about health care in the US focuses on government policy, insurance companies, and drug and medical device manufacturers. I guess that is because those are the entities that get most of the money. But, in the final analysis, good health care for people with medical problems depends on the willing service of well-trained doctors, and it is such persons who will sometimes have to battle the bureaucracies in place to fulfill their callings.
Mr. Mac Bennett, president and CEO of United Way of the Midlands (Yes, even for the United Way, the president and CEO jobs should be separated.) wrote an editorial for The State about servant physician Dr. Stuart Hamilton who, thirty years ago, established the Eau Clair Cooperative Health Centers (ECCHC) in Columbia, SC. According to their website, ECCHC’s mission is to “provide comprehensive, high quality compassionate medical care in the spirit of the Good Samaritan,” and it does so for low-income, medically underserved, and uninsured patients using income based fees for those in financial distress. The centers accept Medicaid, Medicare, and donations from “individuals, churches, civic groups, corporations, and foundations.”
ECCHC is not a small, underfunded, operation. There are about fifteen sites, including a pharmacy and a dental practice, and areas of expertise include pediatrics, OB/GYN, counseling and behavioral medicine, internal medicine, and family practice. Current staff includes about 30 MD’s. Approximately 40,000 low income patients are served. According to Mr. Bennett’s column, United Way funds a program called The Plan which gives uninsured patients unlimited primary care doctor visits and discounts on other services for a payment of $25 per month.
My suggestion is that the best way to achieve access to health care for all is not through government mandates and expanded public and private bureaucracies employing hundreds of thousands of people unqualified to provide health care but through enabling physicians such as Dr. Hamilton, a true hero, and those who are employed by his organization to do their thing as simply as possible. What joy he and his employees must get from the good that has been done over the past three decades!
Here are links to Mr. Bennett's column and to the Eau Clair Cooperative website. There is a nice picture of Dr. Hamilton at the website.