Paying for concierge health care—no longer a just a perk for the super rich—is growing in popularity.
With rising out-of-pocket costs, higher deductibles in their health plans and fewer doctors in provider networks, many consumers want to take more control of their health care. As a result, they are willing to pay a fee for immediate access and longer visits with their primary care physician.
Concierge doctors vary widely in terms of services offered, and several cost a pretty penny. Some high-end practices may charge a retainer fee of $5,000 a year or more for ongoing health management, certain testing and coordination of care with specialists.
Other concierge doctors will guarantee timely access for just $60 a month. Yet the majority of concierge physicians charge a monthly fee ranging anywhere from $135 to $150 per month for basic and preventive care, said Michael Tetreault, editor of Concierge Medicine Today.
There are three ways to figure out if a concierge doctor may be an affordable option for you:
Seeing a doctor more frequently
Financial advisor and physician Carolyn McClanahan says it’s critical for people to first determine their “health care personality” before choosing a physician. “Do you want quick access to the doctor? Do you feel like you need to go all the time and that you need specialized services that having a doctor hold your hand constantly will help you with?” she asked.
“If that’s what you want, then concierge medicine is likely for you,” said Dr. McClanahan, founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida.
Limitless access, longer visits
With this option, you’ll often get more personalized care with a concierge doctor who you can email, text or call at any time. “If you’re not feeling well at 8 p.m., you don’t have to wait until morning to see me,” said Dr. Ken Redcross, an internist in Eastchester, New York, who started a concierge practice in 2007.
Appointments can last longer—30 minutes or more on average—because instead of seeing 3,000 to 4,000 patients, concierge doctors usually limit their practices to a few hundred. “Patients want to get to know their physicians and more important people want their physicians to get to know them,” Dr. Redcross said. “When you have access and the doctor gives you the time, people feel empowered.”
High deductible plans
Most concierge physicians baccept insurance, but paying a retainer in addition to insurance premiums may seem to some consumers like they’re paying twice. However, if you make some changes to your existing insurance plan, you may actually save money, Tetreault says.
You could have a high deductible health insurance plan that’s paired with a health savings account. With a higher deductible, you’ll have lower premiums. You can put the money that you save on premiums in a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA). Those funds can be used for any expense that is directly related to a qualified medical service that has been provided—including some fees paid to the concierge practice.
There are more than 5,300* concierge doctors in the U.S. today and 6,700* more are engaged in some type of “membership medicine”, where patients pay a fee for specific services, Tetreault said. Concierge Medicine Today allows you to search for doctors currently accepting new patients on its website.
It is estimated that free market healthcare physician operators representing Direct Primary Care, Concierge Care and Convenient Care Clinics in the U.S. in January 2015 number approximately 12,000 offices. Unpacking this even further, approximately 5,300+ Membership Medicine physicians clinics plus another 6,700 Convenient Care Clinics now operate across the U.S. currently. This according to The Concierge Medicine Research Collective (surveys/analysis/interviews gathered and conducted between 2009-2015).
*Since federal registration is not required nor is Direct Primary Care considered a categorical specialty, there is no federal or national database of Direct Primary Care physicians, only self-sustaining independent directories. As of December 2014, The DPC Journal’s research arm found, The Concierge Medicine Research Collective from 2013-2015, interviewed key leadership in the Direct Primary Care (DPC) sector as well as conducted numerous interviews and vetted related industry reports received from practicing physicians, business leaders, employers and the investment community operating in the DPC marketplace nationally, they estimate there to be more than 900+ DPC physicians across the U.S. Additionally, industry analysts and experts believe DPC is growing at a rate of about 6-8% nationwide. (Source: The DPC Journal; January 2015; DPC 2015 Annual Report). Given the variable and relatively young age of this healthcare category (less than 20 years) within Membership Medical Care in America, it is impossible to calculate an exact number.