The US has a shortage of coronavirus tests, so the ultra-wealthy are paying concierge doctors to do their own

coronavirus testing lab

The day after the WHO declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, a Los Angeles resident woke up with a 104-degree fever and feared he would become its latest victim. 

Had the man gone to a hospital to get tested, he likely could have been turned away like countless others fearful that they were infected. The United States is facing a shortage of testing materials that has led to it falling behind every other developed nation in the rate of tests performed per capita. As a result, the Center for Disease Control requires that a patient meet a series of strict criteria before being tested for the virus. Despite having traveled to Italy, the country with the second-highest number of coronavirus fatalities behind China, he still may have been ruled ineligible because the trip was over a month ago.Advertisement

However, like many ultra-high net worth individuals, he was able to hire a concierge doctor to test him in his home, and give him results the same day. This man, whose identity Business Insider has withheld to protect his privacy, is one of a growing number of ultra-wealthy people paying doctors to perform tests for the novel coronavirus and provide preventative care in their homes, concierge doctors based in Los Angeles told Business Insider.

Dr. David Nazarian, the UCLA-trained concierge doctor who performed this man's test and has an Instagram account featuring photos of him posing with Dennis Quaid, Kendall Jenner, and Kelly Rowland in his waiting room, told Business Insider that he later diagnosed the patient with an ear infection. Nazarian says his Beverly Hills practice, My Concierge MD, has been overloaded with calls from his predominantly wealthy clients, some of whom fear they've been exposed to the virus - and some of whom want to know what to do to make sure they aren't.

"We're really overwhelmed," Nazarian told Business Insider while driving between appointments Thursday afternoon. "It's crazy out there."
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Even with deep pockets, getting tested still isn't as easy as writing a check

Dr. Sarai Eitches, another Los Angeles-based concierge doctor treating patients who suspect that they are infected, told Business Insider that she is acutely aware of the problems that could stem from wealthy Americans purchasing better care.

"[The labs] are overwhelmed," Eitches told Business Insider. "That's where the ethics of this comes into play, because I do have a lot of patients who naturally want to be tested just to be sure. [But] if we don't have enough lab employees to read the tests for everybody, we really do have to start triaging now. We have to make that decision. Are we going to triage based on your access due to your socioeconomic status?"Advertisement

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When either doctor receives a call from a patient who thinks they may have been infected, both assess their symptoms over the phone before doing a house call that might eventually lead to a test. The test would be included in Eitches' approximately $1,500 fee for a house call.

She doesn't accept insurance, but her fee is less than half the cost of what one ER charged a Miami resident to get tested, as Business Insider's Hillary Hoffower previously reported. His insurance only covered part of the $3,200 hospital bill. However, the schedules of some concierge doctors, including Eitches', are so packed that they aren't accepting new clients. Nazarian, however, is.

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Eitches also said that between the cost of the test itself - several hundred dollars, by Nazarian's estimate - and the price of protective gear for herself, she won't be profiting from the visits. She instead considers them an investment in her patients' safety. 

Complicating matters is the fact that wealthy and prominent individuals such as celebrities, athletes, and high-ranking executives may be more likely to get exposed to the virus thanks to their frequent international travel and attendance at large events, Nazarian told Business Insider. Actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive for the virus while Hanks prepared to shoot a film in Gold Coast, Australia. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Thursday after attending a conference in the United Kingdom. Two players on the Utah Jazz also confirmed that they were infected.

The coronavirus has put even high-end doctors in high demand

While the wealthy may have an easier time getting tested, one Los Angeles-based concierge doctor said the privately-run coronavirus tests are still plagued by some of the problems the CDC-run tests are facing. This doctor conducted nasal swab tests on two patients she believes might have contracted the virus and shipped them over dry ice to private labs three days ago and has yet to receive results. The doctor said they were able to secure approximately 20 coronavirus testing kits and is trying to save them for the patients who will need them the most. Advertisement

Even wealthy individuals who aren't sick are anxious to receive house calls. Both Dr. Nazarian and Dr. Eitches told Business Insider that their clients have requested everything from vitamin shots to extra prescription medication to IVs to prepare for community spread of the novel coronavirus. 

"It might help; it can't hurt," Eitches said. "Those things are kind of like additional comfort for people. Just doing something makes them feel better."

Still, Dr. Eitches said, the most effective things people can do to limit the fallout of the virus are regularly washing their hands, staying home if they are sick, and not going to the hospital unless they're unable to treat themselves at home.Advertisement

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