On the Timeshare of Medicine

When Bryan and I were getting married, we debated what to do for our honeymoon. We were both very young (.. okay, we weren’t, really. Not in Alabama, anyway) and very poor (this part is 100% true) and so we decided to not take a honeymoon until we could really afford it.

Well, I decided this. Bryan was adamant that we take a honeymoon because he believed it would start the marriage off in a negative way to not have one. So we settled on going to Gatlinburg, TN. I had never been, but he had “summered’ up there every year as a child and had fond memories of feeding the bears in the Smokey Mountains.

(I kid you not. He fed the bears.)

Anyway, there was this weird thing about Gatlinburg. The town is basically a mecca of kitschy, touristy places. There’s a strip where you have an old timey picture taken and visit eight different Ripley’s Believe It or Not museums, and you can’t throw a dead cat without hitting a pancake house. (Pancakes? you’re saying, and I know. I don’t know why pancakes.) On this strip, you’ll be CONSTANTLY approached by folks who will offer you tons of goodies for sitting through their pitch. And I mean – REAL good stuff.

We were poor and hungry, and we had no itinerary, so we were like, “Sure. Why the hell not?” So for tickets to the Ripley’s Aquarium (which is still my hands-down favorite aquarium in the south), a $100 Visa gift card, and tickets to a local show, we took a bus to a convention center to learn about timeshares.

We were shuffled in a room with tons of other folks, where mediocre refreshments were served. We listened to the head of marketing speak about this wonderful opportunity we were being given, and we sat through a video that sang the praises of the timeshare model. But act now!, they warned. We have limited slots available.

We had to fill out a card that basically gave us boxes to check if we were interested (deposit required ASAP), or if we wanted them to contact us later, or if we weren’t interested. And if you checked that last box, they’d send over a second level salesman to try and convince you otherwise. Bryan and I straight up laughed at both salesmen. Um, we rent. Do you think we’d pay for a house we can use for one week when we don’t even own a home for the other 51 weeks?

Our basic answer – to any question – was thusly: “No. Can we get our gift card now?”

The aquarium was awesome and we had a helluva meal with that gift card.

****

Bryan and I and all of the boys see a local family doctor whom we LOVE. Seriously. His practice is amazing and he’s been more than accommodating to our family. He had a large family himself and has been through every situation I could ever ask advice about. So when the practice sent us a letter asking us to attend a meeting – at a posh, local golf clubhouse – we wondered what was up.

Because we now have a gaggle of children, I attended alone.. but the venue was far from empty.

We were shuffled in a room with tons of other folks, where mediocre refreshments were served. Our doctor kicked off the meeting, announcing his pending retirement. And then he used the words “concierge medicine”, and my heart sank. The remaining two doctors in the practice got up and spoke about how they believed this was the best decision for the practice. Then the head of the concierge transition company – a third party vendor – stood. We listened to the head of marketing speak about this wonderful opportunity we were being given, and we sat through a video that sang the praises of the timeshare model. But act now!, they warned. We have limited slots available.

If you care about your family’s health, this time share is for you.

We had to fill out a card that basically gave us boxes to check if we were interested (deposit required ASAP), or if we wanted them to contact us later, or if we weren’t interested.

To be clear: if my doctor was remaining with the practice, I would probably sign up without hesitation, even with the $1800/person annual fee. (Kids are free with a paid adult.) But he’s not. And the other doctors may be fine, but I don’t know them.

The practice is moving to a concierge-hybrid system, meaning that the 7,000 patients have the opportunity to take the coveted 300 concierge slots. If you choose to remain “traditional”, you’re still welcome.

BUT.

Of the 8 hour scheduling day, four hours will be reserved for concierge patients ONLY. The other 6900 folks fight over the other four hours of doctor availability.

I already see signs of this taking effect, as my newborn son wasn’t able to get ANY vaccinations until August 16th, when he will be 2.5 months old. I was frustrated when I called for that appointment (back in early July) because COME ON, right?

Has anyone had experience with a concierge model in their family practice? If so, was yours concierge ONLY or did you go hybrid? I’m looking for experiences to gauge if I’m willing to shell out the $3600 a year to remain there .. you know, on top of my insurance premiums.

I love my doctor so much and am heartbroken that he’s leaving. But the snake oil salesman flavor of the meeting and transition leaves me cautious. Thoughts?

 

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10 Responses to On the Timeshare of Medicine

  1. Lisa August 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Ugh. I have no personal experience, but it doesn’t sound good to me. I know some people love it, but it gives me an icky feeling.

    (If you ever wanted to switch the boys, we LOVE Huntsville Peds. They have an awesome new computer system that lets the nurse make appointments right in the room. Before the doc ever comes in, BAM! next appointment scheduled. Lovely when they’re little and have to go all the freaking time.)

  2. Snidely August 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    I don’t have any experience with it, but i fear this is the future for most of us. Be it now or in a few years. I’m not looking forward to it. :-/

    On a side note, if you decide need a recommendation for a new family dr, we have one we like. Just let me know.

  3. Hellcat13 August 6, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Umm, pardon my French, but holy fucking hell am I ever glad to be a Canadian when I read things like this. Wow. I mean, we certainly have complaints about our healthcare system, but that just sounds like extortion to me. It makes me sad that this is what you have to deal with. 🙁

  4. shannon mcbride August 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Our family doc went to MDVIP and we followed. It’s been really nice to get in and get out, the yearly physical is nice and thorough. We’ve been with this doc for (eeps) 30 years. The really funny thing is that we have BCBS and they won’t take mdvip docs, so we just pay $25 per visit, which is less than my copay would be at regular doc. Longer visits, quicker returns on tests, just a whole more relaxed atmosphere.

    We have had no issues with hospital/specialist/tests all that jazz. The BEST part for us is the fact that our doc will do the hospital thing. Not sure if you’ve been in recently or not (except for that recent thing 🙂 Standard practice is to have a ‘hospitalist’ visit every day instead of your doc. 2 years ago, that was a $450 out of pocket for a 3 day stay for my hubby. Not sure if BCBS covers it now, but I want MY doc when I am in the hospital and with this plan, that’s what I get, at no extra charge.

    Bottom line, especially if I had young kids and could afford it, I’d do it.

  5. James Brown August 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    I believe WAFF is doing a special report on this “trend” this week

  6. Jen August 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    James – you are correct because my husband (who works at WAFF) is one of Dr. Howard’s patients and is PO’d about the whole thing. This is rich people medicine and even though we are technically “rich” and can afford the co-pay, what does that mean for all the people who can’t?

    By participating in this type of offering, you are guaranteeing that poor people will get more and more mediocre care.
    Jen wants you to read ..Parent/Teacher Relationships 101

  7. Jessica August 6, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Wow, I have never heard of this but I would not be able to sign up for that! The concierge costs plus paying for your health care would be so much money. Since the doctor you love is leaving, I wouldn’t pay that kind of money on top of my health insurance to get a doctor you may not love. Of course, just my two cents. You’ll do what is right for you, I’m sure!
    Jessica wants you to read ..Easter Was Last Week, Right?

  8. Jesabes August 6, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    Holy eff, $1800 PLUS your regular premiums? Why would anyone do this? Shouldn’t it be something like $1800+all your visits are free? I don’t pay that much in premiums a year anyway (not per person, anyway), so I still don’t think it would be worth it.
    Jesabes wants you to read ..What We Ate: Linguine with tomato-almond pesto, Spanish stuffed peppers, Tomato pie

  9. Melissa August 6, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    UGH. 🙁 As an adult, I could probably shrug it off, but I have three boys too and that’s what would be a big consideration. Tough choice, and it’s sad our health care system is forcing people to make it.

    Unfortunately, a lot of doctors are probably going to start doing this because it may be the only way they can stay in practice. I know that here in Ohio, malpractice insurance/overhead/etc are through the roof for doctors (either individually or as a group) who practice outside of some hospital affliation, while payment they receive FROM insurance companies is way down. This is why my wonderful OB left private practice just a month after my 3rd baby was born… she couldn’t afford to practice solo anymore, but she loved her work so she joined a group at a regional hospital system.

    It all sucks.

    I hope you can find a solution that works for your family. Good luck!

  10. Tessa August 6, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    I’m wondering, is the $1800 access fee considered a tax-deductible medical expense?

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