The New (Old) Family Doctor: Cheaper, Better Care Without Insurance

DailyFinance | Bruce Watson | June 7, 2013

In old movies and TV shows, medical care always seems like a simple thing. When Beaver Cleaver or Jem Finch is sick or injured, the kindly neighborhood doctor shows up, fixes everything, and gives the parents a bill. Payment usually occurs off screen, but the medical expenses never seem especially onerous: the "Beaver's Tonsils" episode of Leave it to Beaver doesn't finish with Mr. Cleaver telling his son to hold on for a month until finances are better. And the broken arm scene in To Kill a Mockingbird doesn't end with Atticus telling Jem to man up until they can make it to the free clinic. Instead, the process is simple: injury, treatment, payment, healing.

For a growing number of doctors who are trying to recapture the simplicity -- and profitability -- of old fashioned family medicine, the solution seems to lie in taking out one ingredient: insurance companies. These non-insurance practices, which generally go under the name "concierge doctors" or "direct primary care practices," are usually aimed toward high-end patients, who can pay thousands of dollars per year to retain doctors who will see them at a moment's notice. But while the concierge model is attractive, it is also out of the price range of most people.