One of the most common arguments against universal health care is the long wait times to see a doctor. I read a story once about a woman who called her doctor complaining about rectal bleeding. Unfortunately, her doctor was too busy to see her. The medical assistant to her doctor insisted that rectal bleeding is caused by hemorrhoids and to wait it out a few weeks to see if it cures itself. The rectal bleeding subsided, briefly, but did return after a few months. When she finally got to see the doctor he informed her that she had a tumor in her colon and that it was now inoperable. This woman may have had a different result or a better chance if she had an earlier diagnosis.
Almost everyone has their share of doctor horror stories that may or may not involve long waiting times or not being able to find a general practitioner with an open schedule.
Are primary care physicians an endangered species? Statistics would say yes. In the U.S., around 1/3 of all general practitioners and family practitioners are over the age of 55 and are very likely to retire within the next 5 to 10 years. At the same time a shockingly low percentage of medical school students are choosing to become general practitioners.
It is no surprise that many physicians are choosing not to become general practitioners with the current health care nightmare. As one doctor once so eloquently put it, “Too many hours, too many patients, feels like fast-food medicine.”
What are physicians doing to keep themselves in the black while not being over-worked with the excess of patients? Many are trying concierge or boutique medicine. This involves patients paying an additional annual fee, ranging from $60 to $15,000, for a doctor who provides 24/7 accessibility. The doctor takes on just enough patients ranging anywhere from 100 to 1,000, a fraction of the 3,000 to 4,000 that the average physicians sees per year. This allows the physician to make a generous income while hand-picking their patients.
There are those that would say that concierge medicine is creating a two-tiered health care system that favors the wealthy. In addition, concierge medicine is limiting the already dwindling number of primary care physicians that can care those who cannot afford it and causes middle and lower class citizens to pay higher insurance premiums.
Concierge medicine seems to be making a grasp on the field of medicine and very likely will grow in popularity over the coming years as the number of patients grows and the number of general practitioners reduces.