Personal physicians aren’t just for the rich and famous anymore. The Washington Post reports on the new appeal for middle-income earners of so-called concierge medicine, in which patients get personalized and prompt care from a doctor they keep “on retainer” for a monthly or annual fee:
These days, new concierge practices tend to target middle-income earners who could feasibly find room in their budgets for health care that’s billed as more personal, comprehensive and convenient, said Gene Ransom, CEO of MedChi, Maryland’s medical society.“This isn’t just for rich people anymore,” Ransom said. “We’re seeing more and more docs looking into this as a way to practice, and now more than ever, they’re looking at the middle-income bracket.
Some argue that concierge medicine could help bring healthcare costs down. Some people who use medical retainer agreements have only catastrophic insurance, paying the doctor out-of-pocket or from HSAs. That means doctors don’t have to deal with the administrative costs of taking insurance and can pass those savings along to patients if they choose. In addition, the WaPo article argues that competition among concierge providers will help bring costs down over time.Even if both of those cost control mechanisms work out, however, there’s still a concern that concierge practices will accept fewer patients overall than traditional practices. If concierge medicine became widespread, that would reduce even further the already dwindling supply of health care providers. But if anything this gives us yet another argument for freeing up artificial restrictions keeping the provider corps small—from immigration rules to limits on how much care nurse practitioners can give.