Concierge medicine or direct care has become very popular in the last few years, and as a somewhat new phenomenon, it is often misunderstood. This is partly because the kind of plan one can choose varies greatly, from practice to practice, as well as within a single practice. The general conception of concierge care as VIP medical care comes from the “fee for care” practice, where a patient pays an annual retainer- up to a few thousand dollars per year- for the doctor’s full range of services. Under this model, the practice accepts no payments from insurance policies or Medicare, although the patient may still wish to use one or both of these to cover the cost of prescriptions, accessories, hospital stays, and the like. The annual fee covers the cost of office visits, grants the patient access to the doctor by phone at any time of day or night, and allows the patient to make appointments on short notice. Another type of direct care, the “fee for non-covered services” model, still requires a yearly retainer from patients, this time ranging from a few hundred, and up to a couple thousand dollars. This plan does not include office visits; these are either covered out of pocket or paid for by Medicare of the patient’s insurance policy. Even uninsured patients or those with limited insurance can benefit from this sort of plan, as the yearly fee and the office fee are quite affordable, particularly for those in relatively good health.
Concierge care focuses as much on wellness and prevention as it does on the treatment of illness, and so includes consultations during which patients and doctors might work together to develop a diet and nutrition plan. Moreover, this model is built with the idea that doctors need to spend more time talking with their patients and understanding the source of their health issues. Often illness is rooted in stress and anxiety. With this knowledge, your doctor might suggest meditation or yoga for stress reduction and pain relief.
Because insurance and Medicare do not cover holistic healthcare, you can see how for a relatively healthy individual without insurance, this model of healthcare is a great value. In fact, this model is a boon to those without insurance, as these individuals typically avoid the doctor’s office except in emergencies or severe illness. Uninsured Americans typically seek care either in the emergency room or in walk-in clinics. The waits in these facilities can be agonizing and the expense outrageous. Under concierge care, patients can make appointments on short notice, and usually get in to see a doctor on the same day. In addition, a patient’s care plan can be extended to the rest of his or her family for only a small extra charge.
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If you feel you cannot afford the price of health care, or you are unhappy with the hurried, impersonal care you receive at the medical facility you currently use, you might consider seeking the services of a smaller practitioner who offers concierge care. If you are willing to take a more active role in your health, it could change your life.