Photo courtesy of Audio Luci Store via Flickr.
Here’s an addition to the list of Things You Can’t Afford (below personal trainer and house in the Hamptons): top quality, concierge healthcare.
Some like to think of healthcare as the great equalizer — and sort of is, at least when it comes to service at public hospitals and clinics. In the ER, after all, money won’t buy your way in front of a gunshot victim.
But just like a billionaire can buy a better car (or dozens), he can also afford better quality, preferential healthcare. This best-of-the-best healthcare, which allows buyers instant-access to top medical professionals, is called concierge medicine, and has both good and bad implications for general healthcare.
Concierge Healthcare Models
There are various models of healthcare for the elite depending on cost and need. Some popular ones include:
- Paid retainers to general physicians for “enhanced care” (full [contextly_sidebar id=”GNWLgFRTePTZqA6je4at6f6Y6FzkPqlB”]doctor access, house calls, appointment prioritization, etc)
- Private health specialist packages, which provide a team of M.D.s, 24/7 advisory, referrals to specialists, in-depth research, digitalized records and more
- Specialized, direct care while traveling the world
- Private memberships that offer augmented healthcare and many other perks for an annual or monthly fee
Costs range from as little as $130 a month to, well, numbers limited only to the depth of pockets and the imagination.
It’s worthwhile for the rich, and for physicians, 20 percent of which either practice concierge medicine already or plan to do so. Under the concierge structure, physicians have less patients, predictable (and handsome) revenue, and more time to dedicate on individual treatment.
What It Means For Medicine
So what does it mean when health matches wealth? The implications of concierge healthcare could be good, bad, or fairly neutral.
Because this kind of healthcare is fueled by the rich, Forbes attests, healthcare on a whole may flourish from the money pouring into new treatments, technology, and developments.
Some also think that concierge healthcare could be the model of the future for all people, as personalized approaches to healthcare catch on.
On the other hand, the US is already experiencing a worsening a physician shortage, and with the concierge model looking more attractive than ever to younger doctors, access to physicians and quality of treatment could be diminished for those unable to afford anything over the standard.
Some are also concerned that concierge healthcare will widen the already present health gap between the rich and poor — the latter of whom already suffer from much poorer health, and die sooner.
Whether or not the quality treatment on the top and the money that it runs on will trickle down to plebeians is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, the rest of us can keep on trying to pull up our bootstraps to higher income brackets, and hope we don’t get too sick.