Another Concierge Medicine Perk for Patients: Saving Money

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—For years, experts have been predicting the transition of primary care doctors away from high patient loads and low reimbursements from health insurers to the potentially more lucrative and less time-consuming practice of concierge medicine.

Concierge doctors provide same-day appointments and 24/7 direct cell phone access. The national average annual fee is $1,612 to $1,800, according to the American Academy of Private Physicians.

Not all of these doctors seem to be reaping the financial benefits. Rather, they’re reducing their workload. The average annual income for all internists in the United States is $191,520, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A recently released three-year analysis of concierge and direct primary care doctors by the Concierge Medicine Research Collective found that the doctors who they surveyed from December 2009 to December 2012 earned between $100,000 and $300,000 a year. However, concierge doctors generally have a cap of between 300 and 600 patients, much less than the typical 2,000-plus patient load.

But some of these concierge doctors do increase their income when they switch from a traditional practice to a concierge medicine practice. Practices that use management companies with a concierge business model have less overhead and their doctors tend to earn more, according to Sarah K. Bloch, vice president of operations at Total Access Medical of Philadelphia, which handles business dealings for seven doctors. Total Access Medical doctors earn between $200,000 and $475,000 annually, she says.

Some patients, too, are reaping the financial benefits of concierge medicine. Total Access Medical doctors charge patients between $2,000 and $2,800 annually but don’t charge their insurance. Not only does that save the patients on co-pays or the percentage of the bill that they are responsible for paying, but it also can save on high premiums.

Bloch says that some of their patients lower their premium costs by a switching to a high deductible health insurance plan to cover visits to specialists, labs, and hospitalizations. The doctors or their support staff do the legwork to find the cheapest lab or medical facility in accordance with a patient’s health insurance coverage, Bloch says. She and others say that patients, due to the additional time these physicians have to spend with them, have fewer emergency room visits and fewer visits to specialists, which she says means fewer repeat tests. These are all cost savings for patients, which Bloch says can exceed $7,000 annually.

Many concierge medicine practices, however, do charge for office visits in addition to the annual fee that they charge patients. Others have different business models. A spokesperson for Diamond Physicians, of Dallas, Texas, says its annual fee, which starts at $95 per month, covers the doctor’s time. Any procedure, such as wart removal, is charged to insurance, which means patients must pay their deductibles and co-pays or coinsurance. However, there’s still money to be saved in a practice like this. Uninsured patients are charged only 5% to 10% of the cost of the same procedure performed in an urgent care center or emergency room.

Further, others affiliated with concierge medicine of point out that for patients in professions that bill high hourly rates, such as attorneys, there’s also a savings in time, because appointments at concierge practices typically run on time.

READ THE FULL STORY for a discussion on the deductibility of concierge medicine investments.

Written by S.Z. Berg, author of College on the Cheap, for MainStreet

About Concierge Medicine Journal

Concierge Medicine Journal (CMJ) curates breaking concierge medicine news, and editorial opinion on a wide variety of topics relevant to the practice of Concierge Medicine.

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