The Government Accountability Office has issued a report concluding that concerns that so-called concierge care limits access to medical services for some Medicare patients are unfounded because so few physicians now provide such "boutique" care. Of approximately 692,000 patient-care physicians in the nation, the GAO identified 146 "concierge physicians" in a nationwide survey conducted last fall. "The small number of concierge physicians makes it unlikely that the approach has contributed to widespread access problems," the report said. In an analysis of responses from 112 concierge physicians, the report found that annual membership fees for patients ranged from $60 to $15,000, with about half of respondents reporting fees of $1,500 to $1,999. HHS has allowed physicians to charge special membership fees as long as they don't duplicate charges for items or services that Medicare already covers. For the extra money, the study said, patients received such benefits as same- or next-day appointments for nonurgent care, 24-hour telephone access and periodic preventive-care examinations. -- by Michael Romano
GAO: Few access problems tied to 'boutique' care
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