NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) -- U.S. concierge doctors charge patients an out-of-pocket yearly flat fee for offering longer appointments, no waiting times and cell phone access.
A small but growing number of doctors are cutting down their practices and charging some $1,500 to $20,000 a year for more services and less waiting time, reported the New York Times Sunday.
Patients with chronic illness who must see a physician often can be attracted to the idea, especially if time in waiting rooms is eliminated. However, critics charge it makes healthcare even more complicated and costly.
"It creates an explicitly tiered medical system based on ability to pay," said Thomas William Mayo, of Southern Methodist University.
In addition, some doctors have been charging for services covered under insurance or Medicare, while some insurance companies have dropped concierge doctors, the Times said.
Healthcare experts advise consumers to find what the annual fee covers, what the contractual obligations are and what is covered by insurance.