Saturday, February 27, 2016

Screwing the Guest

A February 13 Craigslist ad is recruiting hotel doctors.

If you read this blog, you know that I keep track of new arrivals and offer to work for them. They often take me up on it because it’s not easy to find a doctor on the spur of the moment. 

A few hours after my response, the phone rang. The caller introduced himself, adding that he knew me, admired me, and was certain that I was a perfect hire.

He operated a concierge hotel doctor service in big cities, he explained. Clients were busy businessmen who absolutely could not interrupt work to be sick. His doctors made sure this happened through aggressive treatment and powerful drugs, perhaps more powerful than a doctor would use in an office. He asked what injectables I carried and suggested others. His doctors sutured lacerations, drained boils, administered IV fluids and breathing treatments, incised hemorrhoids – whatever a guest need to keep going.

The charge was $3250.

“They pay that?” I asked.

“Just about everyone,” he responded. “Because there’s NO OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSE!” (I write in caps because his voice grew loud). “We deal mostly with foreign businessmen. They have travel insurance that pays whatever we bill, so I promise they’ll have NO OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSE, and no one has complained.”

This was probably true. Aware of the rapacious American medical system, foreign insurers may be inured to spectacular bills.

When I asked about American guests, he segued seamlessly into another monologue. American insurers are less generous, but his service was vastly superior, effective, convenient, and cheaper than the five or ten thousand dollars charged at an emergency room. Hearing this, many paid and express gratitude afterward.

Unlike the previous harangue, this was not true, but I encounter it on web sites and publicity from competing hotel doctors. It puts me in a bad mood.

“So you’re not screwing the guests, you’re screwing the insurance companies.”

“Why shouldn’t I? They screw us!” he exclaimed, adding that many of his doctors are forced to work for him to make ends meet because of piddling insurance reimbursement. Surgeons who once made $1500 for repairing a hernia are now getting $1000.  

This did not improve my mood although I share his low opinion of American health insurers. Foreign insurers give me little trouble, but I’m not billing them $3250. 

“You’re selling yourself short,” he exclaimed after learning what I charge. I responded that I have no complaints about my income.

“You do realize you’re running a business,” he added on hearing that I don’t charge for phone calls. That’s probably true, but I’ve noticed that every doctor who announces that medicine is a business is an asshole.

He is not the first entrepreneur to discover that sick hotel guests, trapped in a strange city, are an easy mark and that foreign insurers are even easier. You can read about another on my September 3 post. 

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