HOUSTON -- If you're one of the millions of Americans who received a letter from your doctor informing you they're becoming a "members only" practice, you know about the growth of so-called "concierge medicine."
A government commission recently found the number of concierge practices has increased five-fold in the last six years.
Dr. Jennifer Chilek went into private practice eight years ago at Stone Creek Family Medicine in Montgomery, Texas, but, like so many doctors across the country, she has felt the pinch as overhead goes up and reimbursements go down.
"The insurance companies have handcuffed small practices," said Chilek.
The only way to make ends meet was to bring in more patients, which in turn means less face time with your doctor.
"The health care system is destroying the doctor-patient relationship. I couldn't have kept going the way that it was," added Chilek.
This year, Chilek joined an estimated 3,500 private practitioners who switched to so-called concierge or boutique medicine.
Patients pay an annual fee from $600 to $5,000, even $20,000, and insurance is not accepted.
Chilek chose a newer, more affordable model called "practice membership" that works with your insurance.
Sample practice membership fees are as follows: