More doctors taking flat fee instead of insurance

WASHINGTON — It used to be known as “concierge medicine” — doctors who don’t take health insurance, and accept monthly flat fees for personalized service. But it’s not just for the rich and famous anymore.

That’s what US News and World Report’s Alan Neuhauser tells WTOP’s Michelle Murillo. It’s called “direct care” or “retainer,” and it’s been growing in popularity since 2010.

The doctors working in this new model “say that the insurance model in the U.S. is broken,” Neuhauser says, and they’re now able to spend more time with each patient.

For a monthly membership fee, patients get same-day appointments, home visits, 24/7 care and consultations by phone, text message or Skype.

“What we’re seeing is more and more doctors who are trying to make this affordable,” Neuhauser says, so they can see more middle-income patients.

Instead of hundreds or thousands of dollars a month, Neuhauser says these doctors’ fees vary according to age, but a family of four can expect to pay about $170.

The doctors see about half as many patients in a day, Neuhauser says, which gives them time to really talk to their patients and to research their health issues.

“We’re seeing a lot of doctors express interest in it,” he says.

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