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How much would you pay for all-access medical care? A Times Google+ Hangout

This post has been corrected. See below for details.

The Times will host a Google+ Hangout at 11:30 a.m. Monday with Times reporter Anna Gorman and city editor Shelby Grad on concierge medicine, a practice many solo-practice physicians are adopting to combat long hours of work and little time with patients.

[For the record, July 30, 10:50 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that the Google+ hangout would begin at 11:30 p.m. Monday.]

Rising costs and shrinking insurance reimbursements have prompted doctors to search for innovative ways to keep their solo practices afloat. With concierge medicine, practiced by more than 5,000 physicians nationwide, doctors charge their patients an annual fee and in turn, give them more time and attention. The practice provides them with extra income and allows them to limit their patient rolls.

But critics say it fosters two-tiered medicine, where patients who cannot afford the extra fees are cut off from their doctors. And if too many physicians make the shift, experts say it could exacerbate the existing shortage of primary care doctors — especially when millions more Americans qualify for insurance in 2014 under national health reform.

Matt Jacobson, a businessman who started SignatureMD in Marina del Rey in 2006, said doctors who sign on don't want to practice "production line, seven-minute visit medicine." Patients who pay an annual fee of $1,500 to $2,500 receive a variety of perks, such as round-the-clock access to the doctor and on-time appointments for that day or the next. Concierge doctors often provide a comprehensive physical and extra screenings, as well as helping coordinate their patients' care with specialists or when they go to the hospital.

We invite you to join in on the conversation by posting comments below, at The Times’ Facebook and Google Plus pages or on Twitter using the #asklatimes hashtag.

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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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