Retainer or concierge medicine is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. In this type of practice, the primary care physician has a contract with patients who are inclined to pay a flat annual fee either for all services or for services beyond those covered by conventional insurance. The fee may vary from $1,000 to $6,000. These kinds of services could include extended office visits, 24-hour accessibility, and other “luxury” privileges. Clearly, these forms of practice will free up a significant amount of resources in primary care offices, which is why most of these practices limit their patient panel size to a manageable number.
This reduction will secure a higher-quality level of care and a more satisfactory experience for patients and their physicians. Some critics of concierge medicine suggest that these changes will significantly worsen the current imbalance between the number of patients and the number of available physicians.
Future of Concierge Medicine
I believe that concierge medicine is a reasonable alternative for saving primary care practices. Our healthcare system has a substantial burden in appreciating the value of a strong primary care system in this country. The work load on primary care physicians is continuing to grow, and the burden of quality initiatives mainly rest on the shoulders of these practices.
It is disappointing for me to say, but especially with the current recession and political mismanagement, all signs are increasingly pointing toward a two-tier health and medical care system in this country. I think we as a society need to get used to this reality that to receive a higher quality of care, we should be paying more.
The government and Medicare policies have discouraged medical students from pursing primary care training, and many active primary care physicians are looking for other options to exit the active Medicare-dependent practice. Because of all the above, I believe that concierge medicine will have a legitimate future.
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