City Brights: Doc Gurley : Insurance industry goes after docs who help the uninsured
For those of us who don't live in the rarefied world of "concierge" anything, here's how a concierge doc works: you, as a doc, sign up people for a fixed monthly amount, then you offer them hand-held service for that monthly payment. Also part of the arrangement is a (sometimes explicit, sometimes assumed) limit on the total number of patients the doc will see - say, 600 people total [for more on this secretive and explosive healthcare topic - called panel size - check out tomorrow's Doc Gurley post titled "Can't get an appointment with your doc? Here's the secret reason why..."].
So what kind of hand-held service are we talking about? Besides getting all your medical visits (sometimes unlimited, sometimes with a co-pay or capped number), you usually also get 24-hour access to your doctor by some combo of cell/email, no wait for appointment times, and even, when desired, you can be accompanied to visits with specialists. Patients who choose this route are expected to own at least catastrophic health coverage, in case of hospitalization or a specialist-heavy illness like a new cancer diagnosis.
The shocker for most of us is finding out just how relatively cheap these concierge docs are - we're talking monthly basic cable numbers. Specifically, anywhere from $39 a month to around $139 a month, usually scaled based on age, with wide variations depending on the doctor's demand, reputation, and geography.
It turns out, some of these free-wheeling docs got sick and tired of waiting for Washington to solve the healthcare crisis, and decided to offer their services for the same price - even if the patient did not have catastrophic (or other) insurance coverage. In other words, for the working healthcare-coverage denied/poor.
The insurance industry is claiming the doctors are acting essentially as unlicensed insurance companies, which is clearly bullshit.