Health care is still unavailable for many Americans, but, as always, the rich can have whatever their money will buy. Top of the line health services are no exception.
As reported in September 2013 by the Census Bureau, 15.4 percent of the population (about 48 million people) did not have any health insurance in 2012. According to recent government estimates, the Obama Care alternative, (the Affordable Care Act) will extend coverage to only 25 million Americans over the next decade. That means about 31 million people will still go without health insurance by 2023. Any way you slice it, health care and medical services are limited for most Americans because they are costly, and thus really only totally available to the uber-rich who can afford to pay for them.
It’s no secret that there are some issues with the quality of medical care that the average person receives. A big part of the problem: late and inadequate appointments.
Nobody is thrilled to show up for a doctor’s appointment on time or in advance of it, and then have to wait past the appointed hour. Then, when the doctor does come into the exam room, the visit lasts all of five minutes. This is due to the practice of overbooking appointments, which is commonplace in just about every medical office. This is referred to as “Conveyor-Belt Medicine” and for most of us is reality. However, if you have the funds - and wealthy people do – house calls and timely appointments are suddenly available.
The rest of society must deal with an unfortunately scarce resource: the physician. According to the Washington-based Association of American Medical Colleges, there was a shortage of about 13,700 physicians in the United States in 2010. This shortage is expected to grow to about 91,500 in 2020 and 130,600 by 2025, making this a big issue for most Americans. However, the 1% can and do make financial arrangements with their doctors or teams of them, thereby putting them on call whenever needed.
Considering all of the above, it comes as no surprise that the well-heeled and their families are seeking new ways to stay above the crowd in health care options.
They’re spending tens of thousands of dollars a year to find those high-end medical services that only money can buy. It makes sense that wealthy people, who can afford things most of us cannot, would choose to use their money to gain access to upscale medical services beyond what is afforded in a standard health-care facility.
The label given to this new brand of medical services is “Concierge Medicine” (also known as “boutique medicine”, “direct care” and “membership medicine”.) It’s a lofty new title for the expensive lengths to which the rich are going to ensure they have their health to go along with their wealth.
What makes these expensive policies a worthy indulgence to the rich? Likely it is the top of the line services offered and the exclusivity that money can so easily buy.
Here are a few examples of some new and innovative options on offer to the wealthy, ones that rich people are now taking advantage of to ensure that top-notch care is there when and if they need it.
Many wealthy patients are making a new and different type of financial arrangement with their physicians, or even teams of doctors. Now it is possible for the rich to pay an annual retainer for a doctor’s services. This retainer may or may not be in addition to other fees. In exchange, doctors provide what is sometimes called “enhanced care.” This gives the patient the option of being able to get appointments whenever they need them, and often also includes the doctor making house calls.
MDVIP is a company specializing in providing access to a primary-care doctor whose practice is usually kept at no more than 600 patients. MDVIP membership fees run from $1,500 to $1,800 annually. The fees also cover certain preventative-care services that are not usually covered by traditional health insurance. Charges for care, such as sick visits and tests, are also often covered. This company began in 2001 and approximately 92 percent of its 180,000 members have renewed each year since.
Medical Records Made Portable & Finding The Right Doctor
Private Health Management, based in Los Angeles, assists members with identifying the right doctors for them, both in the United States (for primary and specialty care), as well as abroad for travel-related issues. They will compile reports to answer patients’ questions about treatment and diagnosis options. The company will also digitize the patients’ medical records, which they receive on portable USB memory drives which can fit in their wallets and thus can always be at the ready. The four year old company has between 1,000 and 5,000 patients (no information regarding rates was available).
Membership With Premium Health Care Companies
Due to this demand for exclusive medical options, there are now numerous companies in business simply to service those people who are willing to pay top of the line prices for high-end medical services.
For instance, PinnacleCare, a Baltimore-based private health firm, offers programs that focus on promoting wellness to those helping clients with a critical diagnosis. They will organize a patient’s medical records and have emergency physicians available around-the-clock. They also connect patients to a network of top doctors throughout the world. Members are responsible for their own medical bills.
PinnacleCare offers seven different types of annual family membership packages, which range in price from $2,500.00 to $50,000.00.
Health Care Arrangements For Service While Traveling
WorldClinic (based in New London, New Hampshire) is a health-oriented company which specializes in care for the wealthy and their families while they’re traveling anywhere in the world. This includes all basic medical services as well as performing emergency triage by phone and prearranging any necessary care at their destinations (no information regarding rates was available).
It Makes Sense If You Have The Money
Understandably, Concierge Medicine is becoming increasingly popular with the wealthy.The above offerings are likely only the tip of the iceberg, with bigger and better offerings are on the way to take advantage of this new niche market.
According to a study released in December by Rothstein Kass (a professional business consulting services firm), “Approximately 55 percent of single-family offices, which generally manage the finances of one wealthy family, used a concierge health-care provider in 2011, compared with about 36 percent in 2009. According to the study, the top reasons given were managing severe medical conditions as well as to have access to quality doctors and medical institutions.”
What Does Future Health Care Hold For Us All?
Some fear that Concierge Medicine may shut-out patients who cannot pay more. There’s also the worry that this kind of industry could perhaps worsen the current physician shortage.
Five years ago, Steven L. Glazer, an internal medicine doctor in Norwalk, Conn., told his patients that he would no longer be able to care for them because he was going to focus on only a dozen wealthy patients who could pay his annual fee. The American Medical Association states that Concierge Medicine is part of the “pluralism in the delivery and financing of health care.” But the AMA also says these practices “raise ethical concerns that warrant careful attention, particularly if retainer practices become so widespread as to threaten access to care.”
Then again, odds are that elite services will only be affordable for a small number of people, meaning the industry is unlikely to have a direct effect on the general population. The doctors who treat the middle class will continue to give proper medical assistance in the same “Conveyor-Belt Medicine” fashion as it currently does,to which we are accustomed whereas a concierge patient will get more than just a hurried five minutes, have a special number to call for appointments and get in whenever they wish.
As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”Nothing remains the same, and Concierge Medicine is both the wave of the future and a return to medical practices of old. Eventually, someone will find a way to make some of these now expensive changes available to more people than they once were. For the time being, as always, only those who can afford luxury will buy it.