Posted Feb 16 2012
Type: Group Health Benefits
Believe it or not, having an insurance card or even a doctor doesn’t mean you have good access to health care. So, how does it work? How does one get better access?

There are now two health-care models that can ensure better access to good health care: concierge medicine and patient-centered medical home, a newer model brought on by provisions of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.

Differentiating the two models can be somewhat difficult so we’ll break it down for you.

Concierge medicine:

  • A flat yearly fee, which ranges from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on offered services, provides enhanced access to care.
  • Doctors often guarantee same-day appointments, quick consults and weekend MRIs if needed.
  • Doctors may even go to the hospital with you to monitor your care and review medical decisions by hospital staff.
  • Critics of concierge medicine claim it creates a system in which the rich gets prioritized while others wait their turn.
  • When primary care physicians practice concierge medicine, they take on fewer patients because of the higher pay and increased patient time.

Patient-centered medical home:

  • Focuses on children, poor patients and those with chronic diseases
  • Patients have personal physician who provides care and coordinates care across multiple settings, from specialist to specialist
  • Pays attention to the “whole person” by considering social issues as well as medical issues
  • Promises enhanced access to care through open scheduling, expanded doctors’ hours and increased communication with care providers

After looking at the breakdown of the two models, what’s important to know is that both are actually expensive. Easier access to care means a higher level of service and therefore costs more.

So the question is, is enhanced access and coordination of care worth it? It hasn’t been determined yet if either of these models really improves patients’ health and no studies have been done that compares mortality rates of concierge medicine versus medical homes.

But most importantly, both offer a focus on prevention and care, which helps those with chronic medical problems, which require close management to avoid hospitalization.

As additional studies are conducted on the models, it should become apparent which is better and most effective in the long run. For now, it’s the patient’s choice of what kind of care they’re willing to pay for.
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Tags: health care access; concierge medicine; patient centered medical home; affordable care; healthcare costs