After several months in the concierge practice of Dr. Mei-Ling Fong, I sat down and took stock, comparing my total health care expenditures for that period with those of the previous year. In the first six months of 2011, I spent a whopping $5,800 out of pocket, much of it on physical therapy. In the first half of 2012, I shelled out $4,350, including $1,600 for a pelvic ultrasound and Dr. Fong’s $2,100. While the two years are not entirely comparable, I saved nearly 25 percent.
I’ve also offset part of the concierge fee by choosing a different kind of health insurance—a high-deductible plan associated with a Health Savings Account (HSA), which is a savings account devoted to medical expenses. (The earnings you contribute aren’t taxed by the government.) This approach, I learned, is very popular with healthy concierge-medicine patients who never meet their deductibles and have grown tired of paying large monthly premiums. For me, a high-deductible plan meant a much-reduced premium: It went from $435 a month for a Blue Cross plan with a $3,500 deductible and no HSA option to $284 a month for a Blue Cross plan with a $6,800 deductible and an HSA, saving me $1,812 a year on insurance premiums.
I asked Bett Martinez, a health insurance broker and consultant in Albany, California, whether she thought people could actually save money by using a concierge doctor. The retainer is hard to recapture in dollars and cents, she observed. But given the peace of mind people obtain for that money, she added, it might be worth the extra expense. In fact, she said she’d appreciate it if I gave her Dr. Fong’s phone number. She’d decided it was time to look for a concierge doctor herself.
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