In a Wisconsin village, the doctor makes house calls — and sees the rarest diseases on Earth

Health Care Solutions

Amish farms are clustered together along Highway D between Cashton and La Farge.

It is 5 degrees below zero and a light powdering of snow swirls across the roads of Vernon County. A few horses and buggies clop through the chill morning air, but Perry Hochstetler leaves his buggy at the family farm and has a driver take him to his doctor’s appointment.   

The Hochstetlers are Amish. With no health insurance and a modest income, they cannot afford most doctors. They can afford James DeLine, once the lone doctor in the western Wisconsin village of La Farge. Population 750.  

When he became the village doctor in 1983, DeLine had no experience treating the Amish and no idea the crucial role they would play in his work. Today, about 20% of the doctor’s patients are Amish or Old Order Mennonite, part of a Christian population called Plain People. They are known for their separation from the modern world and adherence to a simple lifestyle and unadorned dress.

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