Examining Spread Of Concierge Medicine In Maryland
The Baltimore Sun on Monday examined the national trend known as "boutique" or "concierge" medicine as it gains popularity in Maryland. Under the practice, physicians charge patients a flat annual fee while offering improved services, including 24-hour access to physicians, same-day appointments, longer appointments, home visits and more thorough annual physicals.
In 2006, the Government Accountability Office reported 146 physicians in the country with concierge practices. MDVIP, an association representing concierge practices, reports that currently there are 260 physicians in 24 states and Washington, D.C., serving roughly 90,000 patients. Proponents of concierge medicine say it allows physicians to increase their income, lower the number of patients and provide higher-quality care.
Edward Goldman, founder of MDVIP, said the current health care system does a disservice to patients because it values fast diagnoses of illnesses to manage patient volume. Proponents also note that insurance reimbursement rates for primary care physicians are lower than for other specialties, which has led some physicians to quit practicing or take on larger patient loads to keep their practices viable.
Critics argue that concierge practices in Maryland will increase the states' shortage of primary care physicians and that it leaves too many people who cannot afford the flat rate without a primary care physician. The Sun profiled Charter Internal Medicine in Maryland, which notified its 9,000 patients this month that it will no longer accept private insurance or Medicare and instead will charge patients $2,000 annually plus $500 for each child ages 14 to 25 (Dixon/Brewington, Baltimore Sun, 10/26).
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