Industry Update
Opinion Article26 January 2021

I Save Another Life - The Life of a Hotel Doctor

By Mike Oppenheim, MD

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The phone rang at 5 a.m. but I am an early riser. April Travel Insurance told me of a lady with a cough at the Residence Inn in Manhattan Beach. Vacationers hate to get sick, so even a bad cold produces wee-hour calls.


This sounded easy. It was a fifteen mile drive, but the freeways were clear, and I would return before the rush hour.

Guest often feel obligated to demonstrate how miserable they feel, and this lady coughed loudly from the time I walked in. Listening to her lungs was difficult because she wouldn't stop, but what I heard was not reassuring. A bad cough doesn't necessarily mean a bad disease, but this patient had one ominous sign: she was my age.

I phoned April Insurance to explain that the lady needed a chest x-ray and possible hospitalization. This is bad news for an insurer. An ordinary emergency room visit costs over a thousand dollars, a hospital admission for pneumonia twenty or forty times that. Some insurance services work hard over their fine print to avoid paying for expensive incidents, and I occasionally urge guests to go to the hospital after they've learned that their insurance won't cover it.

April doesn't do that. The dispatcher explained that he would arrange matters. Later that day, the husband informed me that his wife had been admitted for pneumonia.

Mike Oppenheim

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