According to a recent opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, more doctors are switching to a concierge model for delivery of medical services. The concierge model often eliminates insurance, opting instead to charge patients cash fees for checkups and routine services. If forced to work inside the existing system, doctors would have to see more patients for less time in order to generate the same revenue. Facing a large influx of new patients, shrinking insurance reimbursements, and rising costs, some doctors are considering the concierge model to sustain their income and continue effectively treating patients. Of course, a concierge practice eliminates treatment options for all but those who can afford it – leaving more patients with fewer doctors in an already stressed system.
An alternative to the concierge model is charging patients an annual fee to cover costs the insurance companies won’t. Instead of switching to an all-cash concierge model, Dr. Jeffrey Helfenstein, a Beverly Hills Cardiologist, opted to charge his patients a $350 annual fee to cover expenses such as extra paperwork and speaking with patients on the phone. This is just one example of how physicians are attempting to maintain their revenues while working inside the system.
While doctors are growing increasingly frustrated, trapped underneath an avalanche of bureaucratic regulations and insurance roadblocks, raising costs in a system that already charges more than any other in the developed world is likely not the best answer.