Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The World's Worst Travel Insurer

International Medical Assistance has a terrible reputation despite being my leading source of business. So far in 2013, it’s called 118 times. Every doctor who knows IMS, including the colleague who covers when I’m away, refuses its calls because it’s so hard to get paid.

Most travel insurers pay within a month or two. If they don’t, a call to the claims department corrects matters.

In the past, IMS never paid within two months. When I called, the claims department assured me that a check would be mailed in the near future or that my invoice had never arrived. When I called a week later, I heard the same explanation.

IMS was in business when I took up hotel doctoring thirty years ago and, for obvious reasons, happy to send patients. It didn’t take long for me to grow annoyed. Payment took six month or a year and required persistent phone calls. In 1993, with my practice prospering, I began refusing its calls.

In 1998, IMS changed ownership. A representative called to apologize for my difficulties and promise that it would now pay promptly. I was convinced.

But nothing changed!! Checks didn’t arrive. I resumed pestering the billing department. By 1998 several competing hotel doctors had appeared. IMS was infuriating to deal with, but it provided plenty of business and – eventually – paid.

My frustration tolerance has diminished with age. In 2012 I was considering dropping IMS when a representative called to announce that it was again under new management. Payment would now be made every month directly into my checking account.

Sure enough, in January 2013, December’s payments appeared – minus several visits. Wearily, I picked up the phone. The problem remained when the February payment appeared, also for too little. The March payment was too much but it didn’t even out. April’s payment was also excessive; now I owed them. The May payment again missed several visits.

That’s when I realized that IMS is cheap but not dishonest. It’s simply incompetent. Its claims department will never get my invoices right. Sometimes it pays too little, sometimes too much, never exactly what I bill. I’ve stopped phoning. As long as payments are in the ballpark of what they owe, it’s good enough for me. 

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