Doctors considering transitioning to a concierge business model, take note: deductibles are on the rise. Here are the grim findings from a study conducted by Athenehealth between 2009 and 2011:
Deductibles as a percentage of contracted rate have risen by 47% in the Northeast and by 20% in the rest of the country.
Higher deductible plans mean that a larger share of doctors’ incomes are coming from self- pay.
This is bad news for doctors in traditional practices.They’ll be asking patients for more and more payment up-front. And, as doctors know, once the patient leaves the office, the likelihood of receiving any payment decreases.
Doctors already battle insurance companies to receive a majority of their payments. Now they have to shake their patients’ pockets even harder, too? And all of this effort forced onto doctors to collect their billings doesn’t actually improve anyone’s health (in fact, it could attribute to higher stress levels for staff and patients alike).
At a certain point doctors have to ask themselves: isn’t insurance supposed to enable the practice of medicine? News like this collective rise in deductibles could wind up doing the exact opposite. That’s because these higher deductible plans have lower premiums. As a result, more employers will opt into them for their employees. They are the technically “the buyers” and a lower premium is a no-brainer. It’s how the market works. However, the real winner seems to be insurance companies who have to dole out less dollars since it takes longer for patients to meet their deductibles.
Even worse is this startling fact: people who haven’t met or can’t meet their higher deductible plans, might forego seeing a doctor when they need medical care. Another disappointing outcome is people who never meet their raised deductible. They might have saved a bit on their premium, but they are still throwing money down a drain.
On a bright note, rising deductibles are moot to people who’ve made the switch to concierge medicine. Hopefully more people come to terms with the fact that for the price of a cable bill, they can have 24-hour access to a primary care physician. They can see a doctor when they need to. And they can get advice about whether they even need a doctor all the time. They can get meds at wholesale cost, sometimes for pennies instead of dollars a pill. And they can save money on an insurance premium by switching to a wrap-around plan that covers emergency and trauma specifically.
As the saying goes, business is business. And there’s plenty of information outlining the benefits of concierge medicine. It’s up to the industry at large, though, to inform patients and doctors about them. The goal should be to increase both the supply and the demand for direct primary care, and improve our nation’s health in the process. In all fairness, waiting for insurance to figure this out seems utterly futile.