Healthcare News & Insights

Concierge medicine: Who really pays?

High-end service and top-of-the-line care define so-called concierge medicine — but it comes at a steep cost. Is it worth it?

For those who can afford it, privately paid, virtually made-to-order medical care isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. But it’s out of reach of most people: Membership fees alone to get access to a concierge practice can start at $1,500. With additional services such as round-the-clock access to doctors, house calls, overseas care, top-of-the-line equipment (at the practice and in the patient’s home if treating chronic illness) can easily bring the cost to $30,000 or more per year.

All of it out of pocket.

Expensive as it is, its growing quickly, as those with the means to pay for it say it’s worth the cost to know that they have quick and easy access to the best medical care possible. And some admit to enjoying the feeling of exclusivity. Patients at a concierge practice don’t have to worry about long ER waits for less-urgent problems or trying to hound an office for test results.

That exclusivity does create other problems though. Because of the intense level of time and attention provided to these patients, doctors in concierge practices by necessity have to limit the number of patients they can take on — hence the steep fees. But we’re already in the grips of a physician shortage — one that shows no sign of improving any time soon.

When concierge practices limit the number of patients they can see, less deep-pocketed patients have to scramble to be seen by already busy doctors in more accessible practices.

Do you think concierge care benefits those who can afford it at the expense of everyone else? Or is it just a basic market response to a need for more personalized attention? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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