Saturday, July 1, 2017

Night of the Concierge Doctors

Hotel doctoring has always been a dog-eat-dog business, but after 2010 another tiresome phenomenon appeared: concierge doctors.

These provide a personal service for a large fee in cash, no insurance -- American insurance -- accepted. Google “concierge practice” for the creepy details. When asked, these doctors insist that they’re not in it for the money which means that they’re in it for the money.

Building an office concierge practice from scratch takes a long time, but hotels are low-hanging fruit. Ambitious concierge doctors visit the general manager, something I never do. Even more effective is telling the staff that every call is worth $50. It’s illegal for a doctor to pay for a referral, and all deny doing this, but bellmen and concierges have begun hinting that, maybe, I’d forgotten something when I walked by on my way out.

I charge $300 to $350 for a housecall. Concierge doctors charge between $600 and $3000…. $3000?! Who pays $3000? The answer is: foreign travel insurers. Everyone in the world knows about America’s rapacious medical system so when an insurance clerk in Spain or Japan gets a bill for $3000, he probably assumes that that’s the going rate. This is no small market; insured foreigners make up a third of a hotel doctor's business.

At the lower end, American hotel guests will usually pay $600 to $1000, although they grumble. There is no free market in hotel doctoring as in all other areas of medicine. If guests want a housecall at a hotel served by a concierge doctor, that’s what they pay.

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