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Mar 12, 2014 10:33 PM by LiLi Tan, KSBY News

VIP Medical Services Comes with Controversy

Hundreds of people attended an information session in Arroyo Grande about concierge medical service options. However, the increase in availability of these programs along the Central Coast is also sparking some controversy.

It seems better medical service comes with a price, anywhere from $1500 to $3000 per year in addition to existing health insurance costs, according to Wayne Lipton, CEO of Concierge Choice Physicians. The bump in price leads to patient benefits such as comprehensive physicals, testing and assessment, same-day or next-day appointments, doctor's direct and cell phone numbers, extended office visits and reduced waiting room times.

Sara P. wrote on our KSBY Facebook page that the programs are classist: "I find the VIP program disturbing ...[doctors] trying to divide their practice into the ‘have anything you want' class and ‘you can't afford my premium care, you can wait' class. Disgusting!"

Lipton says, "It's not a requirement. It's an option, so you still have your doctor. You'll still be able to see them. It's not about losing what you have."

Arroyo Medical Center doctors adopting the program say that they will continue to give the same level of care and treatment to patients regardless of whether they buy the extra services.

"Practicing medicine is quite frenzied. With the Affordable Care Act coming through, we're not sure what the future is and that's concerning to us. We want to make sure we're spending time with our patients," said Dr. Cary Fitchmun. He says his practice, which has thousands of patients, will only take on about 150 patients into the new benefit program, to ensure attention to non-VIP patients doesn't decrease.

Patients these special services may appeal to are people with chronic illnesses.

Danielle Lamoreux suffers from a thyroid disorder that causes fatigue and requires frequent trips to the doctor. She says she's looked into other concierge services in the past, but decided against it because the doctor offering it didn't specialize in autoimmune disorders.
Lamoreux says if her current doctor offered concierge services, she would consider it.

Still, she says people need to do their research: "Interview the doctors because these are people who are going to take you and hopefully help you. You want to be as knowledgeable as possible."

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