Concierge care may exacerbate physician shortages, experts say 

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While concierge medicine has been scrutinized since its inception two decades ago, experts are saying it may be exacerbating physician shortages, according to an Oct. 19 report from Scientific American

"That reduction in the number of patients — often from nearly 2,000 to 500 to 600 — means that many patients are left without primary care physicians at a time of increasing shortages in primary care clinicians," said Russell Phillips, MD, director of Harvard Medical School’s Center for Primary Care. "Additionally, concierge medicine creates a two-tier system of care, where patients who can’t afford the cost of concierge care are excluded." 

Concierge physicians still bill private insurance or Medicare for certain services, so patients pay two fees: one for their concierge membership and one for insurance. 

While membership fees range, Scientific American cited a Harvard Medical School report that found average monthly fees are $200 with potential maximums of $30,000.

Some experts say the impact of concierge medicine on healthcare depends on perspective, especially in light of the pandemic. 

"Pre-pandemic, I would have said, 'We don’t have enough physicians choosing to practice primary care,'" Erin Sullivan, PhD, research and curriculum director at Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care, told Scientific American. "And if those physicians who do choose primary care elect to practice in models such as concierge and DPC, then you could see how that would exacerbate a shortage. On the other hand, if these models prove [to be] more attractive or sustainable ways for physicians to practice primary care, then can we increase the number of physicians electing to practice primary care? And can we learn from these models to build something better and accessible for all patients?" 

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