Concierge care is an approach to medical practice in which physicians charge their patients a membership fee in return for enhanced services or amenities. The recent emergence of concierge care has prompted federal concern about how the approach might affect beneficiaries of Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the aged and some disabled individuals. Concerns include the potential that membership fees may constitute additional charges for services that Medicare already pays physicians for and that concierge care may affect Medicare beneficiaries' access to physician services. The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 directed GAO to study concierge care and its relationship to Medicare. Using a variety of methods, including a nationwide literature search and telephone interviews, GAO identified 146 concierge physicians and surveyed concierge physicians in fall 2004. GAO analyzed responses from 112 concierge physicians. GAO also reviewed relevant laws, policies, and available data on access to physician services and interviewed officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and representatives of Medicare beneficiary advocacy groups.
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