If you can’t afford health insurance or you’re avoiding going to the doctor due to high medical costs, you may have a new option for health care: concierge medicine.
With concierge medicine, you have access to doctors for a regular monthly fee, like what you’d pay for a health club membership, instead of paying for individual office visits, exams and routine preventive care.
You’ll have access to a staff of doctors, often with urgent care hours, starting at about $40 per month. However, you’re only covered for more basic procedures done by specific doctors at certain offices. The choices are even more limiting than an HMO.
Concierge health care provides for primary and preventive care, requires low or no co-payments and may be cheaper than buying insurance, especially if you only go to the doctor for the occasional sniffle or scrape. Some providers include Qliance Primary Care in Seattle, AMG Medical Group in New York and Select Physician Care in Tucker, Ga.
Bloodwork, minor surgery, vaccinations, X-rays and gynecological care may be included, as well as getting a second opinion from another doctor.
Qliance rates range from $49 to $129 per month depending on your coverage level and age. AMG costs $79 per month. Select Physician Care membership is $600 per year, plus a $30 copayment, due at each office visit.
Companies like National Health Partners, which costs $39.95 per family per month for coverage under its Comprehensive Care Program, offers access at discounted rates on health care. (Read up on more ways to save on health care.)
Specialists and Tests
If you have a condition that would be best addressed by a specialist, concierge health care providers may be able to refer you to a specialist, possibly at a discount, especially if you pay cash. Your specialist will communicate with your primary doctor on your treatment.
Concierge plans may cover lab tests, physical therapy, sonograms, weight loss management and other services, but more complicated procedures, like MRIs, endoscopies and colonoscopies could cost extra.
The Downside: Drug Costs
Although you may not get the same prescription drug coverage as you’d get from a health insurance plan, concierge health services do offer discounts on drugs. These limited prescription drug benefits should be fine if you don't take regular medications, or if you don't qualify for prescription assistance programs.
But for those on maintenance therapies, this may not be enough. To save on drug costs, you may be able to get free or low-cost prescription drugs, depending on your income. Or you may qualify for the TogetherRxAccess card.
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