When we think of a concierge, most people think of a luxury service with someone you call to get restaurant or theater reservations. Concierge healthcare works the same way. You call someone up and get a doctor's appointment in less time because you are a member of a private club that charges a membership fee instead of requiring health insurance.

Why Do Doctors Offer Concierge healthcare?
Doctors offer concierge services for a variety of reasons. A big one is that the higher fee allows doctors to spend more time with patients while also avoiding having insurance companies as the intermediary. Some concierge doctors make house calls, give out their cell phone numbers for speedy contact and provide healthy lifestyle counseling.

The Clock Is Not Ticking
All the money that is spent on concierge services goes directly toward paying for the medical care and other expenses incurred at that office. Operating on a concierge clinic basis allows doctors to save some cash and cut down on staff that would normally deal with processing insurance claims. Concierge care costs typically range from $1,000 to $20,000 per year depending on a number of factors, not least of which is the services offered.

Comparing Concierge Healthcare to the Cost of Health Insurance
Comparing concierge healthcare to a more traditional health insurance plan depends on the policy choices you have available to you. Since health insurance prices vary based on the insurance your company or you personally buy, let's look at three examples:

1.You could work for a company that gives you free access to a health insurance plan that covers pretty much anything you need, from primary care, to chiropractic visits, to hospitalization. Co-pays are generally $20 to $40 per visit. If you normally visit your doctor twice a year at a rate of $20 per visit, then concierge care would have to be less than $40 per year to even out financially. (For more insight, read 20 Ways To Save On Medical Bills.)

2. You could also have access to a plan that offers all of these services for $150 per month. Co-pays are generally $20 to $40 per visit. Your plan costs you $1,800 per year whether you see the doctor or not. If a concierge plan costs less than this amount, you are saving money versus the health insurance plan option.

3. You could have no health insurance. A primary doctor's visit could cost around $100, maybe up to $200 with basic lab work. If you saw a doctor twice a year, concierge care would have to cost less than $400 to be worth it on a strictly financial basis.

Concierge services vary based on the following factors:

What Services are Covered
You may be getting the services of a clinic or a primary doctor who only deals with cough, colds, flus and referrals to specialists not covered under concierge healthcare. If you have a serious illness, you could be out thousands out of your pocket without supplemental health insurance. In some cases, concierge doctors offer hybrid plans where your concierge membership pays for your office visits, but you can still bill your insurance for lab tests and blood work.

Availability of the Doctor
Concierge healthcare is a service industry as much as it is a medical one. Don't choose a concierge clinic if you can't get what you want. Many people look for concierge healthcare that offers longer doctor visits, last minute appointments, round-the-clock contact information, delivery of prescriptions, house calls and other services.

There are other alternatives to concierge healthcare where you can get some of the features of concierge healthcare while still staying within the bounds of your current health insurance plan.

Find a Caring Doctor Within Your Current Plan
All doctors are different. You may be able to find a doctor within your insurance plan with whom you can develop a wonderful doctor patient rapport.

Nurse lines
Many doctors' offices offer nurse lines where you can get answers to your health questions. The nurse may be able to get you a quicker doctor's appointment if it's determined that you have a serious illness.

Buy Catastrophic Illness Insurance in Addition to Concierge Service
If you have concierge healthcare, you can opt for a healthcare plan that protects you and your finances if you become seriously ill. In this case, you should add up the price of concierge care plus catastrophic illness insurance when analyzing the cost. You still have to pay out of pocket for seeing specialists such as allergists or chiropractors.

Concierge healthcare is a phenomenal service for getting extra attention from your doctor when you need it. In most cases, however, it isn't a complete substitute for health insurance. At minimum, get catastrophic health insurance in addition to concierge healthcare to protect yourself if you do get a serious illness.

For further reading, check out 20 Ways To Save On Medical Bills, Get Sale Prices On Healthcare With Discount Plans and Intro To Insurance: Health Insurance.

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