Update: I get a lot of people looking through this post, evidently not reading it, and then leaving really stupid comments. So without spoiling the whole story below, please keep in mind is that my problem with Dr. Michael Mall is the inconsistent information given to me by him and his staff, not the idea of concierge medicine. I actually did end up going with a concierge plan, just not with Dr. Mall. I found his offices to be lacking, his staff to be rude, and was not happy with the level of service I received. I pay just as much with another plan doctor and receive far superior care.
Original Post: As I explained in a recent blog post about Concierge medicine in Las Vegas, I was looking into a concierge plan here in Las Vegas, and I came across MDVIP. I was at first very impressed with the company.
The representative I spoke to was very well informed, and not at all pushy. Not only did he do a good job explaining the benefits of the plan, he offered to set me up on face-to-face meetings with doctors in the plan, so I could find one I was comfortable with.
The plan itself was relatively low priced compared to other concierge plans I looked at. And the price tag of $1,500 would include my teenage son. I thought this seemed fair.
I searched Google to see if I could find any complaints about MDVIP, but most of what I found were either doctors debating the value of concierge medicine as a whole, and some patients complaining that their doctor had switch to an MDVIP plan, and now he wanted $1,500 to see them.
So I went forward with the face-to-face with one of their doctors, which went very well. You can see details of that meeting on my previous post. During that initial session, I told the doctor that my hearing had been very poor for the past couple months. With a quick look he discovered that I had some impacted soft wax.
He recommended I fill my ear with mineral oil with a dropper for the next week, and come back for an appointment to get my ear cleansed. When I was leaving, I scheduled the appointment with the nurse. I mentioned that I may not have the time to sign up for the MDVIP plan before I come back, and wanted to know if I could just get this done with my regular insurance. She said that wasn’t a problem, and asked what my insurance was. After confirming that my carrier does approve ear cleanings, my appointment was scheduled, and I was on my way.
So I began putting mineral oil in my ear at night. Each day my hearing got worse and worse, presumably from the amount of junk now in my ear. By the time my appointment came two weeks later, the hearing in my right ear was gone. It was if I was wearing noise cancelation headphones on one ear.
I went to the doctors office around the time of my appointment and checked in. I waited in a very busy waiting room for 10 minutes before the nurse at the desk asked me to come up. She asked if I had signed up for MDVIP yet. I told her that I had not had the chance to talk to them, or review the contract yet, but it was on my list of things to do after the holidays. She confirmed that I intended to sign up for the plan, and I agreed that it was my intention to do so.
A few minutes later she came back with some bad news. Because I had not paid my $1,500 yet, I would not be able to get the treatment that I came in for. I told her that I understood that they wanted me to sign up for MD-VIP, and I had every intention of doing so, but for today, I really need to have this stuff taken out of my ear as scheduled. The nurse told me that was impossible, but she did have an MD-VIP rep on the line holding for me to go ahed and pay by phone now.
This threw me for a loop. They had decided that it was more important to call MDVIP to get my $1,500, than to treat me. And I was expected to pay $1,500 over the phone, without looking over the agreement, before I could be treated. Keep in mind that I do have about as good of insurance as money can buy, it’s not like I’m looking for free health care. But I was being treated like I was trying to trick the doctor and MDVP into treating my one and only ailment, without paying their fee.
At this point I felt like I was being hard sold to the point of MDVIP being a scam. I told the nurse that I had no intention of paying money over the phone, with no contract, just so that I can see a doctor. I reminded her of what I was told when I made the appointment. This meant nothing to her.
It appeared that there was nothing more I could do. I was being told to either pay $1,500, on top of my insurance or co-pay, or not get the treatment. At this point I was getting pretty pissed. My ear was stuffed to the point of pain, and now I was being shaken down by a service that is supposed to make my life easier. So I decided to push back.
I told the nurse that this was truly unacceptable, and at this point it’s doubtful that I will be signing up for either MDVIP, or re-visiting Dr. Mall every again. If they would not treat me, then I would just have to seek out a another doctor, even if that meant going to an emergency room.
I was making a bit of a scene in the office, so I was starting to finally not be ignored. She said that it was possible that another doctor there, Dr. Kaplan, could see me, but he was running nearly two hours behind schedule, so it would be a while. A two hour additional wait seemed awful, but better than having to go an emergency room, so I asked her to confirm that he could actually see me, and I would wait.
While I was waiting, I decided to call MDVIP to see if they felt this was a good way to handle prospects. I had been told that Dr. Mall would love nothing more than to help me, but it would violate his contract with MDVIP. So, I figured I would see if they would let Dr. Mall make an exception. I asked the nurse for the number. Now keep in mind that she had just told me that she had them on the line. But now that she knww I’m calling to complain, she can’t find the number.
No problem, I have an iPhone! I look up the number on the Web and make the call. I sit on hold for a short time and finally get through to a rep with a bit of an accent. I explain my situation, and ask for his help. Surprisingly he understood my issue without me explaining it twice. Not surprisingly, he was not willing to do anything but take my credit card over the phone.
I decided to play the only card I had, other than saying I would not sign up if I could not get my treatment. I let him know that I had already written a post about my experience with MDVIP so far, and that it was now ranking very well for the term “las vegas concierge medicine’. I let him know that I was clearly not happy with the plan now, and I could either go back and write that I did not get my treatment, or write how MDVIP made an exception for my well being. This tactic seemed to fall flat. It’s been my experience that people that wear headsets at the company don’t really care about the company itself.
I asked to speak to a supervisor and was put on hold. The rep came back and told me that his supervisor had agreed with him. Shocking. I reminded him that I didn’t ask him to relay my story to a supervisor, but that I actually wanted to speak to a supervisor. He repeated his position, so I let him know that I was asking for the last time to speak to a supervisor, and then I would be hanging up if I didn’t. He then transfered me.
The supervisor was nice enough, but didn’t seem to offer up any solutions. I let her know about the previous post, and to my surprise, she already seemed to know who I was, and said that she had read my post. So I asked her why she wouldn’t make an exception for someone who was clearly planing on joining the network. She said that she had no problem with me seeing Dr. Mall, but that it was his decision. This pissed me off a bit, because now I’m hearing the two blame each other. I will say that my gut told me to believe MDVIP more than the doctors’ staff. There was one nurse in the back of the doctors office that seemed like a bit of a dragon lady about the whole thing, and she seemed to be the one stopping me from being treated.
The conversation with MDVIP didn’t progress into anything constructive. I hung up when I was being summoned back into the doctors office. It seems that making a scene did the trick. They were now anxious to get rid of me. I was brought into a room where Dr. Kaplan joined me. I had never met Dr. Kaplan before, and he seemed quite nice compared to the other people I dealt with that day. I would almost consider having him as a doctor, if not for the 2 hour behind schedule thing.
In the end, I got my ear treated. Which by the way felt like someone sandblasting my ear drum, but that’s unavoidable.
One last thing that did amaze me is that when I got into the room with the doctor, one of the nurses I was dealing with came in to let me know that my insurance approved everything, but there was a $20 co-pay. I said okay, and she just stood there. “Soooo, can we take care of that now?” she asked. Keep in mind that I’m sitting in a room with a doctor. Most doctors just have you take care of the co-pay on your way out, or maybe when you check in, but she really wanted my $20 right there and then, like I was going to run off on them or something. I handed over my credit card and mentioned that they are all about the money. She didn’t like that.
Looking back at everything, I have to consider who is at fault for my having to spend 2 hours in the doctors office for something that should have taken 15 minutes. I certainly share some part of the responsibility for this, I should have double checked on the MDVIP thing before going back. MDVIP surely could have handled things better. It would have been nice for them to go out of their way to make sure I got treated. I feel now that once they get their money, they are out of the picture, no matter what issues I run into with the doctor.
I would have to say that the lion’s share of blame for the situation falls on to the office of Dr. Michael Mall. I really do understand the idea of concierge, or boutique medicine. It’s to have fewer patients, but have them pay well. From what I understand about MDVIP’s plan, they get $500 of my fee, and the doctor gets $1,000. Since Dr. Mall can treat up to 600 patients on the MDVIP plan, that gives him an income of $600,000 yearly. Of course he needs to over the office fees and staff, but that would mostly be covered by the insurance billings and co-pays on your visit. After all, that’s how most doctors make their entire living. So assuming that Dr. Mall’s office would break even with typical patient charges, he should be able to pocket the $600k. And to top it off, the work load should be significantly less. And on top of that, MDVIP is a marketing machine for Dr. Mall himself, referring patients like me who likely would never had heard of him before. These plans make sense for the right doctor. A great resource to check out the doctors stand point on this is My Concierge Doc.
But I don’t feel Dr. Mall’s office is accustomed to dealing with the affluent. Judging from the waiting room, it’s not their standard patient. How Dr. Mall has a separate waiting room, it’s maned by the same staff. This staff seems more accustomed to dealing with people who, I guess, are likely to run off on their $20 co-pay. In the end it doesn’t look like the place for people like me. And judging from that staff at Dr. Michael Mall’s office, I’m not welcomed.
I spoke briefly with a person who handles PR for MDVIP. She of course defends MDVIP and thinks the problem was just a miscommunication. I can agree with that. The fact is, I was not yet a MDVIP member, so why should they have gone out of their way to help me? It was Dr. Mall’s office who told me to come back in.
So I decided to re-visit my search for a doctor. This time I’m going to remain plan-agnostic and see which doctor I like best, and then move forward. Keeping in mind that the doctor is the most important issue, but the staff may be the people I deal with most. I’m going to expand my focus to several concierge plans and see if I can visit a few doctors. This is a bit of a pain in the ass and time consuming, but so are most important things in life. I’ll likely be looking more into other plans, so I’ll make sure to follow up and link to new posts as I move forward.
MDVIP appears to be a legitimate company, although they are based in Florida, and many readers know how I feel about companies based in Florida. If not you can read that in my post about trashy Florida people. I asked a couple of questions that I’m waiting to get answered. The main question I asked was, if I pay for the MDVIP service, and I run into a bad doctor, can I transfer my fee to a new doctor? I’m not 100% convinced I would have had a successful visit with Dr. Michael Mall’s staff even if I was a MDVIP member. So I’m curious if I would have had the option of leaving. I’ll update this post when/if I get that answer.
But I’m curious if anyone else has had any negative experiences. What do you think of MDVIP? They are in 26 different states, and supposedly have over 100,000 members, so there must be some interesting opinions out there one way or another.