Paying for health care by subscription

Dallas Buyers ClubImagine paying for your routine health care in the same way you pay for a gym membership.

At the gym, your regular monthly dues grant you access to cardio machines, weightlifting, the basketball court, maybe the pool or the tennis court. You might get aerobic and yoga classes, too. For an extra fee you can consult with a personal trainer or nutritionist, get a massage, or participate in a six week “boot camp” class.

With concierge care, clinic members pay a monthly fee and have access to a menu of services with set prices. The clinic might also offer separate insurance policies to cover expensive and non-routine care. Concierge care in the United States has traditionally catered to the ultra wealthy, but it’s increasingly moving into the middle class.

Subscription-based health care can work for the under served, as well. As described in this Next Billion blog post, Sevamob is a for-profit venture in northern India offering subscription-based healthy to the rural and under served communities. By relying on mobile technology and cloud-based data, Sevamob is able to deliver health care to the doorstep of rural customers, thereby overcoming the last-mile distribution challenge.

(Sevamob also offers a way for people to sponsor those who can’t afford medical care, if you’re so inclined. At the Sevamob website, click on Seva Angels and select someone to sponsor.)

The Academy Awards recently recognized subscription-based healthcare, as well. Dallas Buyers Club told the story of patients early in the AIDS epidemic banding together to gain access to drugs not approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Since the medicines were not approved and the clinics not licensed nor staffed by doctors, clinic owners sold memberships in a club that gave away medicine and advice. In 2014, the film won Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor.

Subscription health care is another example of how changes in public and social service pricing and distribution, which are classic marketing concerns, can lower cost and increase access without any fundamental change in the underlying product or service.

Maybe this is just me, but I often think of my taxes and insurance premiums as dues for various clubs to which I belong: the U.S. citizen club, the California resident club, the healthy club, the safe driver club. That helps me remember that I am receiving valuable goods and services for the large amount of money I shell out each month in paycheck deductions. This might be why subscription health care makes sense to me.

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