Concierge Medicine: Putting a price tag on contacting your medical specialist
The Pacific Heart Institute is offering three levels of so-called concierge service from its cardiologists that will cost patients as much as $7,500 extra a year for constant access to their doctor.
By David Lazarus, LA Times, September 23, 2013
So-called concierge medicine — doctors asking their patients to pay an extra fee just to remain under their care — has been around for a while.
It’s an offensive idea, but I get it, especially when it comes to family practitioners who look after a patient’s general well-being. The medical marketplace has room for both Corollas and Cadillacs.
Yet when it comes to medical specialists, such as cardiologists, things seem different.
“You never know when you’ll need to reach your cardiologist,” said Mike Oppenheim, 73, who was diagnosed as having a faulty heart valve several years ago. He’ll need surgery at some point to fix it.
“I have a really good cardiologist at Pacific Heart Institute in Santa Monica,” Oppenheim told me. “I’m getting the best care possible.”
From now on, though, he’ll have to pay a fee of as much as $7,500 a year — on top of his normal healthcare costs — if he wants to get in touch with his heart doctor by phone or email and receive top-notch care.
“I’m really upset about this,” Oppenheim said. “They’re just trying to make more money off of me.”
A specialist, by definition, is a doctor whose care is required because of an acute problem that goes beyond the routine ministrations of a family practitioner. A specialist is your go-to medical pro when you have a condition that requires an up-close-and-personal form of healthcare.
Yet Pacific Heart Institute recently informed patients of its nine cardiologists that it’s introducing an Enhanced Access Agreement that offers three levels of treatment in return for three levels of annual fees.
The institute’s Select level costs an extra $500 a year. For that sum, patients will receive “priority appointments” for certain treatments, such as pacemaker maintenance, and “prompt notification of non-urgent test results.”
Presumably, if you don’t pay the extra money, you’ll get your pacemaker adjusted at their convenience, and word of your test results will arrive in a less-than-timely manner.
For $1,800 a year, institute patients can enjoy Premier status, which buys them everything Select patients receive plus “priority scheduling of diagnostic tests” and “direct email and phone communication with your personal cardiologist.”
READ THE FULL STORY for more insights from David Lazarus