Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Can I Submit This to My Insurance?

The phone rang at 9:30 a.m., the perfect time. I was finishing breakfast. My routine is to work an hour on the computer and then go to the gym, but I’m happy to do a housecall instead. If two housecalls arrive, I skip the gym, an even greater pleasure.

The hotel was the Holiday Inn at the airport. The patient, a young Australian woman, had arrived after a tiresome flight during which she was forced to run back and forth to the bathroom. Urine infections are among my favorite diseases. They’re miserable but respond quickly to the antibiotics I carry. Patients are always grateful. This looked like a good visit. I quoted my fee.

“Oh… I didn’t realize it would be so much.”

This happens now and then. I remember guests at the Beverly Hills Hotel where room rates start at $300 who didn’t want to pay half that. In any case, once I mention the fee, I try not to refuse someone who thinks it’s too high. So I asked if $100 was OK. It was.

It was a satisfying visit. I tested her urine, announced she had an infection, and handed over a packet of pills. She was grateful. As I left, she indicated my receipt.

“Can I submit this to my insurance?”

“You have travel insurance?”

“I think so. They made us buy something for this trip.”

It was too late to ask why, if she had insurance, she had objected to my fee. But this happens regularly. In every advanced country outside the US, except Russia, China, and South Africa, if you need a doctor, you don’t first decide if you can afford it, so foreign tourists often pay little attention to their insurance.

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