Doctors push back against Michigan Medicine’s ‘elitist’ plan to offer concierge model

A physician in scrubs in a hospital hallway
Michigan Medicine's Victors Care program currently costs $2,700 a year and covers all primary care services and procedures, including office visits, with no copays or deductibles. (Getty/NanoStockk)

A Michigan health system’s plan to add a concierge medical model to its offerings is drawing fire from the medical staff who argue the hefty price for the service reinforces the idea that the organization caters to wealthy patients.

Michigan Medicine, a health system owned by the University of Michigan, recently rolled out its Victors Care program, a concierge model that provides patients willing to pay the $2,700 annual fee (which will go up to $3,600 a year for those who enroll after July 1). The fee covers all primary care services and procedures, including office visits, with no copays or deductibles.

The model promises patients 24-hour access to their physicians or a covering doctor via telephone, text or email; same or next day appointments; unhurried office visits that last as long as necessary; an annual executive-style physical exam; assistance with scheduling tests and specialty appointments; minimal wait times and a written summary report that details the doctor’s findings and recommendations from the yearly physical.

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Although other big name hospitals, like the Cleveland Clinic Florida and Mass General, have also rolled out concierge programs in recent years, doctors at Michigan Medicine expected to provide the service say it goes beyond the organization’s public mission, the Detroit Free Press reports. The publication got a hold of a letter signed by 200 doctors and staff who told the health system’s administration that the University of Michigan is a public institution that aims to service the public, not a private few who are able to pay the hefty yearly fee. “We do not feel this is the role of a state university and are unable to justify this to the patients and families we serve," the letter said.

The letter also said that the model “reinforces UM as an elitist institution catering to the wealthy,” according to the Michigan Daily. The faculty complained that the program’s website suggests Victors Care members will receive preferential treatment based on their ability to pay and that patients who receive care from a traditional primary care physician won’t receive quality care.

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Although no leader from the hospital would talk to the Detroit Free Press, the healthcare system did issue a statement that said the concierge model will not diminish the accessible care it provides to all its patients. The statement said it is working to come up with solutions that will be satisfactory to the staff and patients.

Daniel Berland, associate professor of internal medicine, told the Michigan Daily that the program is poaching doctors while the region and country are facing a shortage of primary care physicians. The organization, he said, will not create a Victors Care program for the underserved.

But Misty Hathaway, senior director for international and specialized healthcare services and chief marketing officer at Mass General, told Healthcare Dive that both doctors and patients like the model. The biggest challenge is making sure patients understand that direct and immediate access to their primary care physicians doesn’t mean immediate access to everything at the hospital. “It doesn't mean you jump to the front of the queue in any specialty appointment or that you can always bypass the emergency room,” she said.