1. The doctor will see you ASAP. A small but growing number of doctors are using the concierge model to offer more-personalized care. Among the perks are the ability to contact your physician at any time and to schedule same-day appointments. In return for this enhanced service, patients pay an annual or monthly fee, which often totals about $1,200 to $5,000 per year. Doctors who practice in expensive areas tend to charge the highest fees; a high fee may also mean that they limit their practice to fewer patients.
2. And get to know all about you. The opportunity to build a relationship with a doctor is a top selling point. Plus, your annual physical may include preventive procedures that insurance plans are not required to cover under the Affordable Care Act, such as an expanded blood panel and screening for Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Make a house call. Before you write a check, visit the doctor’s office to see whether you like the practice. Ask how long appointments are and what services are included. Because concierge physicians limit the number of patients they see, you may end up on a waitlist for your doctor of choice.
4. Check your insurance. The relationship between health coverage and concierge care varies from state to state and practice to practice. Your health policy may cover procedures that the retainer doesn’t cover, such as laboratory tests and diagnostic screenings. You’ll likely have to pay out of pocket for the membership fee, although you may be able to use funds from a flexible spending account or health savings account to pay it.
5. Is it worth it? If you’re exasperated with long waits or if enhanced preventive screenings will help you sleep better, concierge service may be for you. If, however, you already have strong relationships with high-quality doctors, concierge service may not provide much benefit. True, the Affordable Care Act will pull more patients into the health care system and may result in more-crowded waiting rooms. But, says Mark Pauly, professor of health care management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, such overcrowding is unlikely in the affluent areas where concierge services operate.