Concierge Medicine Orange County California

Concierge Medicine: The doctor will see you now — for $2,000

By the Orange County Register posted on, September 6, 2013

Dr. Thomas Hwang, a Tustin internist, didn’t like the way his practice was evolving. Even as his patient load expanded, his take-home pay contracted, and he feared not having enough time to spend with his patients.

So a little over a year ago, he invited them to a big meeting at the Tustin Ranch Country Club, where he explained a new feature of his practice. Patients who agreed to pay a yearly fee of $1,600, beyond their insurance premiums, would enjoy better access to him. That included same-day appointments, real-time telephone availability, quick answers to emailed questions, and an exhaustive two-hour annual physical exam with detailed, personalized follow-up. People who were unwilling or unable to pay the fee could still see him on the same basis as before.

“I knew that if I didn’t make a change in my practice, I was not going to be able to do it any more. I was going to have to join a giant group like Kaiser,” Hwang recalls. “So part of it was survival. Part of it, too, was to be able to practice in a way I was comfortable with. I didn’t want my practice to be a mill.”

Hwang had decided to join a small but growing movement known as “concierge” medicine, first introduced to his practice about four years earlier by one of his professional partners, Dr. Mario Ficarola.

“The concierge practice has been able to give me some breathing room,” Hwang says. “I have one and a half to two hours a day set aside where I can do things at a more humane pace.”

In concierge medicine, patients pay a fee for a number of extra services — mostly related to access, prevention and peace of mind — that are not covered by their insurance. The practice started to gain attention over a decade ago, and is growing, though it still represents only a fraction of the primary care given across the United States today.

Critics of the practice say it creates inequity between patients who have the disposable income to pay for it and those who do not. Some also argue that, because most doctors with concierge practices have only a fraction of the patient volume that more ordinary practices do, its growth could exacerbate a looming shortage of primary care physicians.

That would only amplify one widely expected impact of Obamacare, the federal health reform law, which many experts believe will aggravate the doctor shortage. The new law is expected to bring an estimated 7 million newly insured Americans into the U.S. health system next year alone — and nearly 30 million over 10 years — putting additional pressure on already-stretched primary care providers.

READ THE FULL STORY for more on Why doctors are choosing the model, the Obamacare factor,  and local Orange County Concierge Practices that accept insurance,

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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