In my database of over 16,000 visits, entering zero for my fee and searching turns up 789 files, but this includes 529 when colleagues covered. That leaves over 200 where I collected nothing.
On nearly 100 occasions, this was my decision. 50 patients were hotel employees whom I don’t charge even if they’re willing to pay. Most can’t afford the fee, and I’m happy at the thought that they’ll tell their co-workers about the experience.
In 19 cases, I arrived and realized immediately that the guest needed a referral, either to a specialist or an emergency room. I try to detect these during the phone call before the visit, because I feel guilty accepting a fee and then sending the guest off to pay a second fee. In four additional cases, I had decided to call the paramedics, and I remained in the room until they arrived. Naturally, these were distressing events. Everyone was preoccupied, and I felt inhibited about mentioning my fee. In other cases, the guest or his companions remembered, but these were the times they didn’t.
Poor people rarely stay in hotels, but a few cheap motels and youth hostels have my number, and college-age travelers often arrive in the US without health insurance. As a result, I sometime trim my fee and occasionally charge nothing if they come to my home. I’ve done that a few dozen times.
One guest was dead when I arrived. I didn't collect from his wife.