PART 1 – Every election cycle, the liberals pull out their FREE book. Free education, free housing, free jobs for all, free guaranteed income. Free medical and anything else that comes to mind that the electorate might accept to sway their vote left.
In 1898 it was coined in one germane Swedish version about free lunch:
“A free lunch es not very cheap teng after all, ven von consider how many faller get poor eatin’ ’em.”
Or in other words…. “A free lunch is not very cheap thing after all, when one considers how many get poor eating them.”
And isn’t it the truth? And it’s probably not that good a lunch either. Just like the substandard care of the left’s free medical lotto.
Someone is giving up something in order to do something free for others. In the scheme of the radical left giveaways, it’s the taxpayers that are taking it in the shorts – and that’s fine with the left.
But in the spirit of the American “helping hand“, “big heart” and “helping others” mindset, there are a couple of scenarios that are benefiting needy Americans… and it’s at the innovative, generous expense of a few who care in order to give so much.
Giving of their time and talents, they serve those who find themselves in need of emergency and routine healthcare for a variety of financial reasons in New Jersey. We spoke with Dr. Eck about their approach – one that others should consider.
RB ~ The concept of FREE healthcare is virtually unheard of and unimaginable. What motivated you to develop such a service?
AE ~ Actually, many politicians claim to offer “free” healthcare. What they mean is care that costs the recipient nothing, though of course, someone must be paying for it. The illusion of free care is compelling and to those who are not being very thoughtful, a utopian dream. The Medicaid system was established in 1965 as a way for the government to entitle the bearer to care without payment. While sounding kind and compassionate, it is actually a cruel hoax. For it robs from the taxpayers, erects a huge costly bureaucracy and pays the caregiver less than the cost to provide the care. Access to care becomes difficult.
When John and I started our private practice in 1980, we knew that enrolling as physicians who took Medicaid would jeopardize our livelihood, putting a strain on the business. The only way our business could prosper would be for our receipts to exceed our expenses. So we did not enroll in Medicaid.
Yet the Oath of Hippocrates states that we should deliver care without concern of being paid. How could we have a private practice and also care for the poor? We took our inspiration from the Bible story of the Good Samaritan which tells of a man who was beaten by thieves and left to die by the side of the road. A priest and religious teacher stopped and took notice, but both hurried on to do what they felt was more pressing. A Samaritan man, on the other hand, saw the need and personally took action. He bound up the wounds and transported the man to an inn where he paid for his care and stay. We had read Marvin Olasky’s book The Tragedy of American Compassion,” and learned that the government providing charity is far more impersonal, more expensive and less effective than when non-government charities get involved.
Our plan for starting our own non-government free clinic was to enlist the help of private donors and set up a venue where physicians and nurses could freely donate their time, while not having to personally foot the bill for the staff, building, supplies and medicines. Since the patients in need can leave without payment and without incurring a bill, the transaction is complete with no further obligation to anyone, especially the taxpayers. In 2001 we found a small building on church grounds 10 miles from our private practice, then spent two years fixing it up and setting up the 501(c)3 charity status. We filed for medical liability protection under the HRSA Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and got to work. When we opened in the fall of 2003, word of mouth brought patients to our door with no advertising at all.
RB ~ What are your medical specialties in your own medical practice?
AE ~ Dr. Alieta Eck is board certified in Internal Medicine and Dr. John Eck is board certified in Family Medicine. In the free clinic, most of what people need is primary care. They come with signs and symptoms that need to be evaluated, sorted out and diagnosed. 90% of the patients we see can be cared for in the clinic and those who need specialty care are connected with specialists on a case by case basis. We have 3-4 primary care physicians who volunteer regularly. We currently have a recently retired orthopedic surgeon who volunteers and have had an oncologist and cardiologist rotate through. We have a dentist and oral surgeon who come in once a month. We would love to enlist the help of physicians of all specialties and are working on a plan to make that happen.
RB ~ And your husband John works with you in both your practice and the free clinic? How do you fit your skeds around both services?
AE ~ Over the past 15 years John and I have managed to develop a schedule that works. We each donate 6 hours per week in the clinic and fill in the rest of our time in our private practice. The clinic is only open 12 hours per week as we would be the default physicians and cannot donate more time. This has worked well.
RB ~ What type of services are you able to provide through your free clinic?
AE ~ We see patients who are sick or have chronic illnesses. We examine, diagnose, counsel and give medication, inviting them back at regular intervals. We do not offer preventive care– physicals for patients who feel well as there is simply not enough time. We are able to do lab work through a lab that charges $89 for the routine tests. Most patients recognize the value and are able to pay that when the bill arrives. For those who cannot, the Zarephath Health Center pays for the labs on a case by case basis. About half the patients we see are on Medicaid and cannot find a physician. But we are able to order labs, x-rays and prescriptions for them that are covered by Medicaid.
Direct Relief donates medications on a regular basis– shipped and postage free. We are able to bless many with a free supply of very expensive medicines.
RB ~ Are there any services you’re unable to provide or won’t provide for various reasons like prenatal care, addictions, emergency services?
AE ~ Early on we initiated a plan whereby we would do the prenatal care for the first 6 months and then transfer care to a nearby hospital that would do the delivery for $5,000. We handled a few deliveries that way with friends and family members making donations, but then the hospital was sold to a large hospital system and we did not pursue it any further. We do some addiction counseling and treatment and triage emergencies to the local ERs.
RB ~ Are people required or ask to pay anything or do they contribute as possible?
AE ~ The FTCA states that we cannot charge for our services nor bill any third-party insurance company. We have a box in the front entrance where people can donate if they wish. Three scrunched up dollars is payment in full from a grateful patient who has little else to give.
RB ~ How many people work at your free clinic and are they full-time volunteers or medical professionals from other clinics?
AE ~ We have 6-8 physicians and 10-15 nurses on our regular roster, plus about 20 non-physician volunteers. They all make their living elsewhere and donate their time at the clinic. We have two paid part-time employees who are faithfully present every time the clinic is open. Many medical and nursing students rotate through, loving to get the fast-paced hands-on experience.
As one can see, free healthcare works but under a controlled, innovative, efficient system – something Uncle Sam has yet to figure out. But there is still cost. Cost of time and talent of Drs. Eck and their staff. Cost of other services and medications donated by others. But these are donations willingly provided, not forced through taxation with wasteful abandon and disregard for quality and performance.
Our grateful thanks to Drs. Alieta and John Eck for their work, and input on this. And we look forward to some time with Dr. Josh Umbehr and his very successful approach to affordable healthcare for today’s struggling Americans.
The FREE that the liberals want to burden us all with is NOT healthcare – it’s “hopecare.” We hope the doctors and staff are well paid enough to be the best. We hope the medications are safely manufactured and controlled. We hope the facilities are clean, well-managed and up to date for the care we all need.
When you take the free market approach to providing services out of the picture, you take the incentive to be the best way. You take the rewards for quality care away and replace them with minimally paid practitioner performers. When you need heart, brain or cancer surgery, you don’t want an $80,000 a year staffer who graduated med school. You want the guy making $1 million+ a year because he’s the best. And you want a system of care and insurance that allows you to have him.
In PART 2 we’ll take a quick look at the Government’s intrusion and solutions.
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