Most Americans harbor no love for health insurance companies, which often seem to nickel and dime customers. Doctors and hospital administrators don’t like dealing with insurers either.
Increasingly, patients and providers are choosing to cut out insurers and contract directly with each other. The model is known as “concierge medicine” — and it shows the power of the free market to deliver high-quality care at a relatively low cost.
Concierge medicine enables patients to assert greater control over their health regimens. They can choose their own doctors, rather than selecting only from an insurer’s often narrow network of providers. Patients pay a yearly or monthly membership fee directly to the doctor’s practice. In return, they can generally visit the physician as many times as they want. They receive more personalized care and longer, more thorough appointments.
Doctors benefit from this arrangement too. The concierge model enables physicians to sidestep the regulatory burdens and often times paltry reimbursement rates inherent to working with insurance companies and government programs. And since doctors have fewer patients to treat, they can devote more time and energy to each patient.
Hospitals are getting in on the act too. In January, the Cleveland Clinic Florida launched a concierge program that charges patients $4,000 a year. At Massachusetts General Hospital, which started a concierge program in 2016, primary care doctors divide their time among 300 to 500 patients, as opposed to the 1,200 to 3,400 they would oversee in a traditional practice.
Some of the nation’s top nonprofit medical systems, including the Mayo Clinic, Stanford Health Care, and Duke Health, also offer similar programs.
The increasing popularity of concierge medicine demonstrates that patients and providers are longing for the freedom and choice that only the free market rather than government programs can provide.