Some Bay Area Physicians Explore ‘Retainer Practices’ Option
Frustrated with low reimbursements, increasing paperwork and "other insurance hassles," some Bay area physicians are "quietly operating 'retainer'" practices, and others are looking into the option, the San Francisco Business Times reports. In retainer practices, patients pay a large annual fee -- up to $20,000 for a family per year -- to receive a "high level of personal attention," including house calls, instant access to providers and physicians who will accompany them to specialist consultations. Retainer groups are already "well established" in some areas, including Seattle, where MD2, a four-doctor retainer practice has been in operation for five years. MD2 CEO Duane Doberowitz said that the practice assigns 50 "family groups" to each of its four doctors, who in turn provide round-the-clock services. Some medical experts say that the Bay area is "ripe" for retainer practices, and Palo Alto Medical Foundation is one area group considering the option. PAMF CEO Dr. David Druker said, "I think that we will need to provide that service for the community. There is a group of people willing to pay extra outside their premiums, and we have an affluent community used to getting the best possible service in everything that they do." Still, Business Times reports that "[b]etter service for those willing to pay for it is likely to be a sensitive" issue in the medical community. Mark Gardner, a health care policy analyst at the University of Washington, said, "This is going to lead to less support for public programs, and there is no cross subsidy or network to help cover the burden or cost of health care in general" (Doherty, San Francisco Business Times, 8/1).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.