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Sen. Dale Schultz: Help for those who help free clinics
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Wisconsin can put a "Welcome" mat at the door of community free clinics for doctors, dentists, nurses and other health care providers willing to volunteer their services by enacting a bill I helped pass Tuesday in the state Senate.

For many people with no health insurance and unable to afford out-of-pocket costs, free clinics are the only option for medical or dental care.

Free clinics are not the entire answer, but the bottom line is they serve hundreds of people who otherwise go without care. Free clinics don't wait on government for an answer. They happen because of services and dollars given by local folks who care about their fellow community members.

We all can be grateful to community members making free clinics a reality in Sauk Prairie, Dodgeville, Boscobel, Richland Center and other Wisconsin communities. These clinics depend on volunteer doctors and other health care providers. Because volunteer providers still must have medical malpractice coverage, our state's Volunteer Health Care Provider Program (VHCPP) gives retired providers malpractice coverage.

For working physicians and other care providers, if they also treat patients as a volunteer at a free clinic, their malpractice insurance premiums can increase by thousands of dollars per year. I support changing state law to remove that disincentive for a working provider to volunteer at a free clinic.

Senate Bill 80 would add working providers to retired providers as "agents of the state" when they provide care as volunteers at a free clinic. I want to see the VHCPP cover all these providers: Physicians, dentists, registered nurses, optometrists, physician assistants, dental hygienists, practical nurses, nurse-midwifes, pharmacists, dietitians, nurse practitioners, pharmacy technicians, chiropractors, podiatrists and physical therapists. For the unsung heroes among us, willing to give volunteer care above and beyond a stressful job, this is the least we can do.

Please be in touch about issues important to you at, P.O. Box 7882, Madison WI 53707 or

- Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, represents a large region of southwest Wisconsin and serves on the Senate Committee for Public Health, Senior Issues, Long Term Care, and Job Creation.