If you can afford it, concierge medicine can bring a new sense of comfort, ease and peace of mind to your relationship with your primary physician.
Retainer-based, fee-for-service medical care
For additional fees, patients typically enjoy same-day appointments and 24-hour access to their doctors. They also get more doctor-patient face time, extra preventive care, plus such additional services as house calls, email consultations, more extensive exams, and preventative tests that insurance plans may not cover.
How does it work?
Some concierge doctors keep their traditional practice, but take additional fees from a small number of patients who receive additional perks. Others don’t accept any insurance (including Medicare) and see only patients who pay annual retainer fees. Depending on the services and geographical area, these fees can range from as little as $60 to $30,000 a year. Most patients will still carry health insurance to pay for the specialized services that their concierge doctor does not provide.
When doctors can spend more time with their patients, they feel that they build better relationships, and provide better care. And there is some evidence that such practices can produce better outcomes, such as reductions in hospitalization rates.
Of course, not all patients can afford concierge medicine. Critics see it a promoting a two-tiered system of healthcare in which those with more money get better care. Some are also concerned that too many doctors will be attracted to this kind of practice, and that not enough doctors will be available to provide adequate medical care for the less financially fortunate.
Who should consider having a concierge primary physician?
Patients with serious, chronic health issues who can afford the additional fees would be likely to benefit from this kind of practice. Of course, it’s important to remember that increased availability is only one of the qualifications for choosing primary doctor.