Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dealing With Buenos Aires

“Can you make a visit to Palo Alto?”

“That’s four hundred miles away!”

“How much would you charge?”

“I’m in Los Angeles. Do you understand?”

“Yes. How much would you charge?”

In fact, she didn’t understand. To save money, many travel insurers have closed their US offices, so this call originated from the patient’s home country. Inevitably, dispatchers in Buenos Aires don’t speak English as well as their former colleagues in Miami. I carefully explained that the distance made a visit impossible.

Unlike most European travel insurers who require clients to pay up front and submit a claim, South American insurers send a doctor. I’ve made over two thousand visits for them. They’re among my favorites because patients who don’t pay directly are less demanding. Also, the insurers send me to hotels that don’t call or, even better, to my competitor’s hotels. A downside is that, if I don’t listen carefully, they send me to the wrong address. In Spanish “v” and “b” have identical sounds; so do “y” and “l.” The letter “i” is pronounced “ee” in Spanish. 

Then there was the time an insurer called me at midnight.

“Can you make a visit to Culver City tomorrow morning?”

“Yes… But why did you call me so late?”

“Because it says on your profile that you are available 24 hours.”

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