Los Angeles Times Examines Debate Surrounding Boutique Medicine
The Los Angeles Times today examines "retainer" or "boutique" medicine, the current trend of some physician practices offering "red-carpet service" to patients for fees ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 per year. Fees, as well as some services offered by boutique practices, are not covered by patients' health plans. Boutique doctors provide "round-the-clock" access, comprehensive annual exams, longer appointments and "other niceties." About 200 doctors offer boutique medicine services. Patients' interest in this type of practice "reflects widespread frustration with the confusion and anonymity of modern medicine" and represents one of the "latest signs of the continuing backlash against managed care medicine," the Times reports. Some lawmakers are wary of the practice, expressing concern that they may violate Medicare laws. "If every doctor started doing this, it'd be the end of Medicare," Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who recently introduced a bill that would prevent Medicare from reimbursing doctors who also charge retainer fees, said. He added, "We believe it's wrong, and we're going to try to stop it." On the other hand, the American Medical Association has "no objection" to retainer medicine, the Times reports. Dr. Yank Coble, president of the group, said, "Our position is that citizens have the right to strike a contract with their doctor, just like they do with their lawyer or any other professional." It remains to be seen whether boutique practices will "be a cornerstone of medicine or a curiosity," Dr. F. Maxton Mauney, who investigated the practices for the AMA, added (Carey, Los Angeles Times, 7/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.