Concierge medicine

Health care, health-care costs and the new affordable care act have made headlines almost every day recently. But flying below the radar is another development in health care called concierge medicine. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden describes what it means.

“It’s really a fancy name for something, I think, that you and I grew up with. Not to date us, but we grew up in the 1950s, and I remember when I went to the doctor for some ailment, cold or whatever, broke my wrist — I think I did that one time — my parents would simply pay with money and leave. And so it was a fee-for-service. You would go in, you’d pay your money, and there was no insurance involved.

“Some doctors are actually going back to that. Now, they’re actually expanding a little bit in the sense that they’re actually requiring the person who signs up with them to pay a monthly amount. It may be between $50 and $100 a month, and what a person gets for that is routine care. So they git a cold, they got the flu, they go to the doctor, and the doctor will treat them.

“They may need some X-rays. They may need some CAT scans. The doctors are often able to get those … paid for through wholesale prices. And insurance typically is not involved at all. And so a lot of folks are saying this is a lower-cost way of accessing health care.

“Now, one downside, obviously, is that if there is something that a person needs, a patient needs, that’s beyond what the doctor can do in his or her office or with a routine test, where you have to go to the hospital for (a) major operation, then obviously you would probably want to have insurance (and) need to have insurance.

“So what some people are doing is they are having that concierge medicine for the routine needs, and then they are buying a large-deductible insurance policy, which tends to be fairly cheap, for their more complicated needs.”

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