Concierge medicine has established itself as a distinct type of healthcare delivery system due to its flexibility, efficiency and access. However, this membership-based access to quality healthcare doesn’t come cheap. If you’re looking for a doctor in a concierge medicine practice, you might be wondering about the pros and cons, as well as whether the cost is worth the benefits you and your family receive. To better understand, here’s everything you need to know to make an informed decision on concierge medicine. Consider talking to a financial advisor about whether concierge medicine fits into your budget given the scope of your larger financial strategy.
What Is Concierge Medicine?
Concierge medicine or retainer medicine is a delivery model that gives members 24/7 access to physicians via phone calls and prompt access to doctors. It also gives them access to highly personalized, comprehensive healthcare, including such premium services as body composition analysis and vascular scans – sometimes even a personal trainer.
Physicians have far fewer patients than peers in traditional medical practices and are able to spend extended time with each patient.
This service is available to anyone who qualifies and can afford it. Patients’ annual bills run to four and sometimes five figures. Many concierge practices bill the insurance companies of patients, who still must pay for a policy that covers hospitalizations and emergency care.
A Variation on Concierge Medicine
A less expensive variation of concierge care has emerged known as direct primary care (DPC). This type of care focuses less on offering premium services than on keeping costs down. It charges a fee that generally ranges from about $50 per month to $150 per month and does not deal with insurance companies. A DPC practice offers basic checkups, lab tests, prompt appointments, wellness programs and minor urgent services. They may also include the cost of some prescriptions, but they do not provide emergency services, specialist treatments or hospitalizations, which are covered by conventional health insurance. Fees paid to a DPC provider normally don’t count toward the deductible of a conventional health insurance plan.
DPC practices appeal to people whose insurance plans have a high deductible and to people who need frequent medical attention because of chronic medical conditions. Physicians report that a DPC practice means they have fewer patients than those in traditional primary care groups and, thus, they are able to spend more time with their patients.
Pros of Concierge Medicine
Now that you understand what concierge medicine is, you may be wondering what compels people to pay extra for their medical care. Some advantages features of concierge care include:
- Same-day appointments. Concierge medicine ensures that patients can see a doctor quicker than in traditional clinics. Often, they can see a doctor on the same day they call to set up an appointment.
- Longer exam times. In most traditional medical clinics, a nurse or nursing assistant will help you with most of your medical care. Then a doctor will see you for a few moments. Because concierge medical clinic focuses on doctors delivering patient care, you will likely be able to see your doctor for up to half an hour in a single visit.
- Home delivery of medications. Some clinics will deliver your medications as an additional benefit of your concierge care membership.
- 24/7 phone and email access. Doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners are available around the clock to answer your medical questions. From confirming prescriptions to giving health care advice with your symptoms in mind, this 24/7 access is a major advantage to having concierge care.
- Personalized care. Because concierge medical practices only allow a specific number of customers, physicians can take the time to gain an intimate knowledge of each patient’s needs. Patients appreciate this attention to detail, especially when their health stories and chronic illnesses require special consideration from their physicians.
Cons of Concierge Medicine
Although concierge medicine has many advantages, there are a few drawbacks. When shopping around for a concierge care provider, be sure to watch out for the following drawbacks.
- Expenses add up. It’s no secret that concierge care is expensive. This expense is not covered by insurance, so patients must pay for concierge medicine out of pocket. Additionally, it’s wise to have health insurance, which can cause your health care cost to add up. Keep in mind, your concierge medical provider might not cover the cost of prescriptions, vaccinations, and more.
- Find your specialists. Most concierge care will not cover specialty services that people with chronic illnesses may require. Additionally, if a patient develops a condition outside of the day-to-day health issues that these primary care physicians cover, patients will need to find a specialist. Because most medical concierge offices are not in-network, they may not be able to help their patients find a specialist. Additionally, patients will have to find a specialist that their insurance covers.
- Limited access. Membership-based health care is expensive and requires a membership base to be successful. Therefore, low-income individuals or people in small towns might not be able to access to concierge medicine.
Concierge care is popular among well-do-do health care consumers, and its less expensive cousin, direct primary care, is also attracting patients. It is especially popular in areas with older populations, including those in California and Florida, and their clientele is made up mostly of people over age 50. It may not be available in some rural areas. While concierge medicine is expensive, it is advantageous for people who want to be seen the same day and want the assurance that they will have as many one-on-one interactions with their doctor as they feel they need.
Tips for Managing Health Care Costs
- Just as you would consult a healthcare professional to assess your well being, be sure to consult a financial professional to asses your fiscal well being. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Considering alternatives to health insurance is important for maintaining a healthy budget. A comprehensive budget calculator can help you understand which option is the best for you.
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