In practice, Church Health is an almost stunning exception to the nightmarish medical industry in the United States. This is a pure nonprofit charity that accepts little government funding, makes no money, and is thriving specifically because Memphis businesses and individual donors contribute to cover its $27 million annual budget. “I’m a professional beggar,” the 70-year-old Morris says wryly.

And what is the cause? To put it simply: Care for the poor.

‘A third of the Bible has to do with healing the sick’: How a medical oasis sprung up in Memphis to cover the working uninsured at Church Health Memphis
Dr. Scott Morris in the primary care clinic at Church Health.

Today, Church Health runs primary, dental and eye care, behavioral health, nutrition and wellness services, among others, out of a 1.5 million square foot facility with a full-time paid staff of 250. More than 80,000 Memphians rely on the center for their health needs. But the true magic lies in Morris’s relationship with subspecialists across Memphis who donate their time to diagnose and/or perform needed surgeries, and with hospitals and clinics that willingly write off all costs for Church Health patients who have no other source of reimbursement.

In Memphis, Church Health has stepped into that breach. Patients pay on a sliding scale depending upon their income, but most visits, including urgent care visits, are $40 or less. The Memphis Plan, through which patients like Thompson pay $50 per month and then occasionally another tiny copay (think $5), offers enrollment through employers who may not themselves have health plans for their workers, as well as those who are self-employed. And all subspecialty care is free, be it a hip replacement or, say, open-heart surgery.

Medical oases like Church Health will continue to be desperately needed in the richest nation in the world.

Read the full story on Fortune.

Carolyn Barber, M.D., is an internationally published science and medical writer and a 25-year emergency physician. She is the author of the book Runaway Medicine: What You Don’t Know May Kill You, and the co-founder of the California-based homeless work program Wheels of Change.

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