Concierge Medical Services Appeal to Baby Boomers

January 28, 2013

Concierge services offer increased medical services for a fee and will continue to expand, says Elizabeth O'Brien, a MarketWatch writer on retirement issues.

Concierge services typically offer 24/7 access to the doctor, same day appointments, longer appointment times and a greater degree of personalized attention.

  • The average annual fee for a concierge service is approximately $1,800.
  • More than 4,000 physicians practiced privately in the United States in 2012, a 25 percent increase from 2011.
  • Each concierge or "boutique" doctor has about 350 patients, meaning that more than 1.5 million Americans have paid the additional fee to have these extra benefits.

Critics argue that concierge medicine magnifies the disparity between the haves and the have-nots, as the service is usually cost prohibitive for those with less financial resources. Proponents contend that as the burden on the health care system increases, particularly through the Affordable Care Act, boutique services will make up for the lack in doctor availability.

  • Proposed changes to the Medicare system might mean doctors are reimbursed less for care provided.
  • Many doctors argue that the fee they charge for concierge services help to balance out the lost revenue of future Medicare cuts while simultaneously providing their patients with the same level of care they are currently accustomed to.
  • Patients of concierge services get more face-time with doctors, receive annual physicals that can last hours and focus more on preventive medicine.

Companies like MDVIP, a unit of Proctor and Gamble, and One Medical Group are expanding rapidly. MDVIP is the nation's largest network. It has managed to keep its fees flat despite general rises in overall health care costs. One Medical Group has expanded to five metropolitan cities and offers increased access and more face-time for only $200 a year.

Despite the claims that boutique care is elitist and widens the care gap between the rich and poor, patients who pay to be under personalized doctor's care emphatically attest to the benefits of such services. Given the future influx of medical patients in the health care system, it is unlikely these services will disappear.

Source: Elizabeth O'Brien, "Why Concierge Medicine Will Get Bigger," MarketWatch, January 17, 2013.

 

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