With so much turmoil surrounding the medical community, and good medical care becoming ever more difficult to come by, more physicians are leaving large medical facilities to open smaller practices. Patients are responding favorably to this trend, as most individuals appreciate the idea of more thorough, personal care, the ability to reach a doctor day or night, and the ease of scheduling appointments on short notice. Most concierge care facilities simply charge an annual fee to patients and an office fee upon each visit. This can range from $400 to $5,000 annually, but patients who cannot afford insurance my find these practices preferable. Of course, many concierge care practices accept insurance: sometimes the insurance company will cover some or all of the annual fee and/or the office fee. Any prescriptions will be handled according to individual insurance policies as well. Some physicians have chosen to offer “hybrid model” care, where a private practice will offer both concierge care and traditional care. This allows doctors to maintain a bustling practice where patients with greater needs can opt for increased access to medical attention. This can be controversial, however, as it appears that personal service is available only to those who can afford it. As with any new trend in the medical community, questions of ethics surround concierge care.
Is it an elite service showing favor to those who can afford it while relegating patients of average income to inferior care, or is it simply a way to ensure you get the amount of medical attention you need if you have pressing health issues. In many cases, patients opt for this plan because it is a plan of wellness and prevention, rather than simply a plan of illness and treatment. In other cases, doctors open concierge practices to cater to those who cannot afford full coverage insurance. Models of this sort charge a monthly fee and an office fee. These fees are generally far more affordable than medical insurance, particularly when you account for the co-pays and prescription drug fees. Affordability is the major issue surrounding concierge medicine. When healthcare becomes just another consumer product, the fear that prices will spiral out of control is understandable. After all, a huge swath of Americans are going without insurance and only seeking medical care in emergencies as it is.
However, advocates of concierge medicine argue that there are affordable plans for every income bracket. The real challenge is to convince people to rethink healthcare, emphasizing wellness and prevention over illness, treatment, and medication. More often than not, concierge costs are lower than health insurance costs, and several of the available plans work as hard for uninsured patients as for those with full medical coverage, provided these individuals are in relatively good health. This category of patients can have access to health care for less than $500 per year.
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For individuals with more health issues, a middle-tier plan can cost $900 to $1,000 per year. These plans usually include a set number of office visits, with additional visits available for a fee. The most expensive plans are for patients who need very specialized healthcare and require in-home visits.