Concierge medicine seems to be the new trend in health care these days, with more people than ever choosing this type of provider over more traditional physicians. When you combine the benefits of concierge medicine with a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) that’s linked with a health savings account (HSA), you have a winning combination.
What Is Concierge Medicine?
This model of medical care first appeared on the scene in the mid-Nineties and was initially created with wealthy individuals in mind. For an annual fee, doctors who participate in concierge medicine limit the number of patients they see and provide better, more personalized care to the patients they have. From direct access to physicians via email, phone calls and texts to increased time spent with the doctor, more and more patients have decided that the annual fee for their participation is well worth the money.
Now that the idea of concierge medicine has become more popular, it has also become more accessible to people who are not affluent. It is a classic case of supply and demand—as more patients choose this level of health care, more physicians decide to participate. This, in turn, means even more patients want this type of personalized coverage.
How Is a Concierge Physician Different?
One of the biggest differences between a concierge physician and a traditional one is his or her accessibility. Concierge physicians develop a personal relationship with their patients, which includes 24-hour access in many cases. For example, if you visit your regular doctor, you might spend 10 minutes with him. A concierge physician will spend at least 30 minutes with you.
A concierge physician will also provide you with email and telephone numbers so that you can follow up directly with him if you have questions or concerns. If you have ever tried to speak directly with your doctor in order to have questions answered or issues addressed, you know how nearly impossible it is. And you certainly are not given your physician’s personal telephone number!
How Does Concierge Medicine Work?
Also called direct care, concierge medicine means that for an annual fee, patients receive a higher level of health care from their physicians. Doctors who follow this model of health care typically do not deal with insurance companies, but instead operate on a cash-only basis.
This negates the necessity of submitting claims and waiting for reimbursement from insurance companies. It also allows doctors to spend more time with their patients and work with them to come up with a treatment plan that is not based on what the insurance company will or will not pay for.
The fee for a concierge physician is not the same everywhere—each physician sets his own annual fee amount based on where his office is located and what level of care he is able to give. For example, a doctor who offers house calls will most likely charge a higher fee than one who is accessible only via phone and email.
How Does an HSA Work With Concierge Medicine?
One of the reasons a combination HDHP and HSA plan works so well with concierge medicine is that a portion of the annual fee can be paid with funds from your HSA if the physician includes the cost of conducting a yearly physical in his access fee (you would likely need the physician to write an itemized receipt showing the cost of the physical exam to be able to use your HSA fund to pay the yearly membership fee).
You can also use your fund to pay the expenses charged by the doctor. If you have an HDHP, you are already paying these costs out-of-pocket, and in many cases a physician using the model of concierge medicine can charge less for services because there is not the hassle of dealing with an insurance company. This means that you may actually be saving money on your routine medical services in addition to paying the lower premiums associated with a high-deductible health plan.
In other ways, your HSA and HDHP work the same as they do if you do not use concierge medicine. Once you have met your deductible, your health plan kicks in—which means that you will have the coverage you need if you suffer a catastrophic health event such as an extended illness or serious accident.
Is Concierge Medicine Right for Everyone?
Whether to choose concierge medicine or not is an entirely personal decision. Much of it depends on whether you are happy with your current level of care through your primary care provider. You may also be limited by your geographic location; while this model of medicine is becoming more popular and therefore more available, you may not be able to find a concierge practitioner where you live.
Since my personal goal is to help you save money on your health care needs, including on both premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, I will say that there is no reason why you should not choose concierge medicine if it is available to you. The overall expenses, including the annual fee, are not likely to be more than you are currently paying, and in many cases may even be less. This is especially true if your doctor offers discounted services for cash payments.
There are also many other money-saving options that would work well with concierge medicine and your HSA. These include (but are not limited to) prescription drug discount cards and discounted imaging and lab services. For more information about how we can help you cave money on your health care, please visit the Additional Benefits page at the HSA for America website. Or feel free to contact one of our licensed Personal Advisors at 866-749-2039.
Wiley Long is President of HSA for America, and a passionate advocate for consumer-based solutions that will improve price transparency and lower health insurance and medical costs for people purchasing individual and family health insurance plans.