Doctors Serve Privileged For a Price

SEATTLE — If David Heerensperger isn't feeling well, he calls Dr. Howard Maron on the doctor's personal cell phone, no matter whether it's 3 a.m. on a weekday or noon on a weekend.

And Maron will happily make a house call to the 65-year-old executive or send a nurse to his patient's office for tests. And he'll guarantee same-day results.

It's a growing trend. Five years after opening his practice MD2 (pronounced MD-squared) in Seattle, Maron is planning to open as many as 100 franchises across the country. And an increasing number of doctors nationwide are beginning to charge anywhere from $1,500 to $20,000 to let wealthier patients opt out of the traditional health-care headaches.

Maron says he got the idea while traveling as the team doctor for the Seattle SuperSonics. He noticed the athletes got VIP care, while the rich team owners struggled with the frustrations of traditional health care.

"I thought, 'Isn't it ironic that a player can get a response like that, while the wealthy and the powerful have to sit in ER waiting rooms as if they are a nobody — or an everybody?' " Maron says.