Concierge Medicine

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Cash-Only Practices: Better for Patients or Just Better for Doctors?

By: Kamal Menghrajani

Patient Jayaludchemy Yogaratnam visits with Dr. Hisana Qamar at a MedLion practice in Monterey.

Patient Jayaledchumy Yogaratnam visits with Dr. Hisana Qamar at a MedLion practice in Monterey. (Kamal Menghrajani)

Some wealthy patients pay thousands of dollars each month to keep a personal physician on call at all times. In case of emergency, the patient can quickly access a doctor who knows them well and who they trust to make good medical decisions.

Now this “concierge medicine” model is being scaled down to reach people with more modest financial resources. One such practice that’s starting up in Northern California is called MedLion. Started in Monterey by Dr. Samir Qamar, the practice is offering what he calls “direct primary care.” Patients see their doctor for advice on treating the flu or a chronic illness. The doctor takes on fewer patients overall — about half that of a typical primary care provider — and presumably have more time to spend with each one.

But this sort of care comes at a cost. These practices do not accept insurance, meaning patients must pay cash in order to be seen. In MedLion’s case, there is a monthly fee to buy a spot on the doctor’s limited roster, and an additional $10 fee for each office visit. For everything else, the patient pays out of pocket — including basics like x-rays and blood tests. Continue reading