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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flat-rate medicine: The future of health care?

A new model of health care, called flat-rate medicine, is popping up around the country in primary care offices. In these practices, which are similar to concierge practices but generally more affordable, patients pay a monthly fee -- usually ranging from $50 to $150 -- for unlimited, 24/7 primary care that includes everything from preventive care to chronic disease management.

This model is said to save money because the patients have fewer emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations, and it cuts the middle men -- insurance companies -- out of the equation, letting doctors spend more time with fewer patients with less overhead.

One practice example is Qliance, a Seattle-based primary care practice that compares its setup to a health club membership, but for health care. According to NPR's health blog, the setup is working. In 2010, Qliance patients had 65 percent fewer ED visits and 35 percent fewer hospitalizations, when compared to benchmarks for its region.

To learn more, watch this video on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

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