Wheelchairs: Mobility Options for You

What Is Concierge Care And Does It Make Sense For You?

Medical insurance costs continue to rise. If you're exploring your health care options, one sometimes overlooked option that is gaining popularity is called concierge care. 

Concierge care, or concierge medicine, is a model used primarily by family doctors and sole practitioners. The medical professional charges an annual retainer fee, and for that cost the patient can schedule an appointment anytime with no co-pay. Any in-office testing is also included in that, but the patient has to pay for outside lab work, prescriptions and care from specialists.

Some patients are combining high-deductible plans provided under the Affordable Care Act with a retainer. Depending on the annual retainer cost, this may be less expensive and provide more in-depth, preventative and immediate care than an single, low-deductible plan. It may also be possible to find a plan with a health savings account from which you can pay the annual retainer. 

Here are more benefits of concierge medicine:

1. Your doctor can often see you quickly. 

The concierge model as practiced by many sole practitioners allows the doctor to schedule you in quickly. Being able to call for same-day or next-day appointments with your doctor is one of the most popular reasons to enroll in a retainer model of medicine.

2. Your appointment times are longer and less rushed.

Because the doctor is charging enough for his or her time, and not told how much to charge by the insurance company, appointment times can be longer. Some concierge doctors routinely allow an hour for regular appointments; another benefit can be annual physical exams that last up to 2.5 hours.

3. You and your doctor build a better relationship.

With fewer patients, and more time to devote, your doctor can learn more about you. In group medicine, you might see any of the practice's doctors depending on your needs, and not have a personal relationship with the medical professional who sees you. But in a sole practitioner, concierge model, you will get to know your doctor and he or she will retain information about your past medical history and needs that goes beyond reviewing notes on your chart.

One benefit of this is related to prescriptions. Your doctor knows everything you are taking and isn't missing something that another doctor or specialist prescribed. You'll have fewer side effects that come from combining medications and your doctor will be more willing to work with you to find the best and most cost-effective combination of drugs.

4. There will be a focus on preventative medicine.

Your doctor has more time to review and evaluate any problems you are having with your health, so it's more likely that you'll bring up any issues that are bothering you while they are still minor. You also don't need to worry about paying extra or waiting a long time for an appointment, so a worrisome symptom can be treated right away before it festers into something bigger. You stay healthier and your health care costs are lower in the long run.

In addition, doctors in a concierge practice aren't worried about what insurance plans do and don't cover -- they'll have tests done based on whether they are needed to diagnose your issue instead of ignoring it.

Call your local family medicine practice or solo practitioner to find out if they offer concierge medicine.