CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – For 17 years, Dr. Robert Colton has been packing his patients into waiting rooms.
For those expecting personal attention, the doctor's beside manner was what you might call lacking.
But it wasn't Colton's fault. He was being limited by Medicare to spend just 15 minutes with each patient.
"You had to hurry. You had to rush. People had to wait," he said. "People wanted to talk on the phone. They had to wait many hours on the phone, or a day later for me to call them. I wasn't really proud of the service I provided."
Now Colton is one of a growing number of doctors opting for an alternative practice.
This past Spring, a group of investors prescribed a controversial cure-all: a plan called MDVIP — a high-dollar primary care package with a $1,500 membership fee that promises no waiting at the doctor's office.
"I can't sit in a waiting room for an hour-and-a-half," MDVIP patient Les Arouh said. "I can't do that. It makes me crazy."
Critics say pricey health plans like MDVIP are outrageous, and that the people behind it are only concerned with the bottom line.
The program is so unpopular that some legislators are considering a federal law that would make MDVIP and health plans like it illegal.
"When a doctor who has taken the Hippocratic oath says to existing patients 'If you want to continue with me, you have to pay a $1,500 membership fee,' I think that's breaking that oath," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said.
MDVIP patients are told the fee is for a comprehensive yearly physical — a service not covered by Medicare.
Participating doctors close their existing practices, and limit their patient load to 600. The $1,500 fee, in effect, buys guaranteed on-time appointments.
"It really allows them to give the attention and time and get back to being doctors instead of focusing on business," Andrew Ripps, C.O.O. of MDVIP, said.