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Concierge Medicine: What Exactly Is It?

Concierge medicine has been touted in the media. The lead character in a new prime time television show is a concierge doctor whose patients are only the very wealthy. Do these physicians have a net worth requirement to become a patient? What exactly is concierge medicine? Can anyone afford it?

Most concierge doctors are internists. For an annual fee, members can get in to see the doctor the day they call, or the next day at the latest. The physician will have far fewer patients than most physicians; often as few as 300 versus an average of 3000 patients seen by most doctors. One caveat: in almost all cases you will still need health insurance and the doctor decides which health insurances plans will be accepted. Concierge fees vary dramatically; the annual fee entitles a patient to an appointment with that doctor, or in limited circumstances physicians in a group practice. Should an appointment or consultation with another physician or specialist be required, the concierge doctor will help select and secure an appointment, but there are no guarantee of an immediate appointment. Keep in mind that the fee is paid regardless of whether or not you see the doctor over the course of the year.

There are a variety of different approaches to concierge medicine. Direct Primary Care for example, also known as DPC, can frequently be found in larger cities. If a physician “doesn’t take insurance”, the physician may be considered a direct primary care provider. Since the doctor isn’t regulated by contractual relationships with insurance companies, fees don’t have to conform to specific arrangement. It’s the patient’s responsibility to claim any possible reimbursement. DPC physicians’ offices don’t file claims or interpret health insurance coverage. Needless to say, DPC can be expensive. Unlike conventional concierge medicine, specialists often participate in this kind of coverage.

While it would seem that concierge medicine is only accessible to ultra high net worth individuals, there are concierge medical practices that could be affordable to others. The concept of concierge medicine has increased in popularity among doctors. Most of these doctors have to see too many patients to provide quality individual medical care, and at the same time must maintain a staff to deal with insurance claims, prescription plans and more. It is difficult to practice real medicine when if a doctor is seeing, on average, 3000 patients one or more times per year.

If your physicians are becoming concierge doctors, take a look at what you’re getting and if you really need it. For information, contact Ellen at EAB HealthWorks.