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Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Dog-Eat-Dog Business, Part 11


“This is Doctor Oppenheim,” I repeated several times before hanging up. Caller ID identified the Doubletree in Santa Monica, so I phoned to ask if someone had requested a doctor. Someone had.

“You answered, but you couldn’t hear me,” said the guest. “So I called the front desk again, and they gave me a different number. Another doctor is coming.”

That was upsetting because the Doubletree is one of my regulars. When asked, the guest gave me the 800 number of Hotel Doctors International, a service based in Miami.

“How much are they charging?” I asked.

“I don’t know. They just asked if I had insurance.”

That was a red flag. Many hotel doctors charge spectacular fees – and then assure guests that travel insurance will reimburse them. This rarely works with Americans, but foreigners make up half of our business including mine. Helpless and ill, forewarned of our rapacious medical system, they rarely make a fuss.

I told the guest that my fee was $250 and that he should call the agency and ask what it charged. It turned out to be $650 (far from the largest I’ve heard), so I made the housecall.

Afterward, standing on tiptoes to peer over the front desk, I saw the colorful business card of Hotel Doctors International stuck on the counter. The clerk, who had insisted that mine was the only number she knew, expressed surprise when I pointed it out.  

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