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Concierge medicine no longer reserved for rich and famous

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ATLANTA (CBS46) -

How much is a doctor's visit worth to you?

With a growing shortage of primary care physicians across the country and the phasing in of the Affordable Care Act, an appointment with your doctor is becoming a hot commodity.

But Dallas Rhodes got right in for his annual physical at PartnerMD, no time wasted in a crowded waiting room, because it's a concierge practice.

"It's a membership-based practice where patients pay an annual fee to have access to their physician, a relationship with their physician," said Dr. Laura Beaty.

Fees can range from $1,200 to $6,000 a year, or about $140 per month, in addition to health insurance premiums. But you're paying for perks.

"They're going to get your typical physical, you're going to get all your preventive care needs met," Beaty said.

Most of all you're paying for your doctor's undivided attention when you need her most. There's even a cap on the number of patients your concierge doctor will see.

"If I need to, I can actually email the doctor or call her if that's necessary," Rhodes said. It's convenience for the cost of your daily Starbucks latte.

Some would say that's a small price to pay as the number of primary care doctors dwindles and the number of insured skyrockets.

Experts forecast a shortfall of 60,000 physicians by 2015 and 90,000 by 2020. Meanwhile, millions of newly-insured patients are flooding the system, meaning longer waits to get a doctor's appointment and less time with your doctors when you actually get in to see them.

If you don't feel up for waiting, why not have your healthcare come to you?

Family Nurse Practitioner Linda Duxbury is the founder of 2UMedical.

"It's just a modern rendition of the old-fashioned house call," she described.

Patients pay a flat fee for services and can even use a health savings account to cover costs for sick visits.

"We treat minor illnesses, minor emergencies, a lot of things you'd go to urgent care for," Duxbury said.

Basic treatment costs $175. You can even get a strep or flu test in the comfort of your own home.

Mary Ferguson has been a 2UMedical patient for a year. "My husband and I have always had a high deductible, so I might as well be paying to have convenience come to me," she said.

Duxbury says the key to saving time and money in the age of Obamacare is to focus on staying well.

"If you're not calling me because you're sick, I'm doing my job," she said.

When deciding if concierge medicine is for you, take into account your health insurance premiums. Can you afford another $140 a month?

Both Beaty's practice, PartnerMD and 2UMedical accept insurance. Although with a house call, you will have to fill out and send in the forms yourself and coverage is not guaranteed.

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