My wife and I recently received a letter informing us that the physician who has cared for us for 35 years and the practice under which he works are requiring enrollment in a “Concierge Medicine” program for which we must each pay a non-reimbursable up-front fee ranging from $100 to $2,000 a year. For $500 each, we can have “appointments in two days,” and for $1,000 each, we can have “priority next day appointments.” If we both enroll, the spouse gets the same privileges at half price.
While I have always liked and respected my physician, I believe that the seriousness of an illness should be more important than the amount the patient is willing to pay for better service. Agape Physician’s Care claims to cater to the needs of patients, yet many elderly (and not so elderly) patients are on fixed incomes and cannot afford to pay high unreimbursed fees for priority services. Even if a patient can afford such fees, it would cost a 65-year-old who lives another 20 years $40,000 to enroll in the “platinum level” program. The physician still receives both Medicare and secondary insurance reimbursement in addition to the up-front fee.
Certainly decreasing reimbursement, increased paperwork and other frustrations have made the physician’s work less profitable. However, patients, physicians, hospitals and other organizations should continue to press Congress for relief. Meanwhile, doctors should tighten belts rather than require patients who have Medicare and secondary insurance to pay for a third kind of “insurance.” Doctors may be frustrated by their payments and paperwork, but they are hardly impoverished.
Alan S. Krech