Anthem Blue Cross: I am in Health Insurance Hell (and paying for the pleasure)

by Marianne Richmond on August 4, 2010

This latest debacle with Anthem Blue Cross began last Thursday when I went to Walgreen’s to pick up a prescription. Walgreen’s ask me if I had a new insurance card because when they tried to put the prescription through the computer informed them that my policy had been terminated in April 2010. I informed them that yes I had a new card but had handed it to the employee when I dropped off the prescription and she had entered it. Well, she said, let’s try that again.

So, as background, at the end of May I switched Anthem policies. The policy that I switched to cost about a $150 per month less than the policy I had, covered more things and included dental. Imagine that! They asked for a payment with the application and I made a second one over the phone in early July. Problem was, I come to find out after standing in Walgreen’s talking to Anthem for over an hour that they didn’t really “take” the first payment (sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t i was told) and the July payment had been posted to a “non-existent” account number. Apparently, their accounting system doesn’t mind taking money for a non-existent account and just leaving it sitting there waiting for the owner of the existent account to claim it. Yeah, I found that a little weird also.

After the notes about the  transaction from July were found (after I had been on the phone with Anthem, mostly on hold, for about 45 minutes) but not the actual funds, I was put on hold while the customer service rep contacted their finance department who needed to find the money itself, transfer it to my account, and reactivate my account. A difficult, complicated task I was told that would take 24 hours. She assured me she was putting “a rush” on it. Indeed.

24 hours later on what was then Friday at 5:40PM, I dialed the Anthem customer service number. There were 2 choices. Press one to pay your bill or press 2 for other issues. I pressed one. The recording announced their business hours, 8-6PM, and then told me that I had called after business hours and to call back during normal hours. Huh? I tried again. Same thing. Third time, I pressed 1 and bingo, they were still open…at least to take money.

I asked the person who answered why the record said that they were closed at 5:40PM. She unashamedly told me that when they were “overloaded” with calls they just turned on the “closed” recording. Except of course for option 1. Always interested in customer service issues, I wondered who had made that policy decision.

I gave Friday’s customer service rep the case number which I had requested the day before.  Even with the case number, the circle jerk started again. Finally, I was told that this was something that took a while. Locating what they had done with my money and re activating my account that they had closed because of their mistake surely wasn’t something that could be easily accomplished. New estimated time for the account to be restored was “maybe Monday.”

Well, I said, it is a good thing that I was only having a prescription filled and now in the ER. She said that in that case, If the hospital checked, I would still receive treatment and then when this was straightened out the bill would be straightened out also. I felt better then,  knowing that if I was in the hospital and the computer said that I did not have health insurance, I would receive the same treatment as if I had health insurance. Well of course I did pay to have health insurance, just no one but me and my credit card company knew that.

On Monday, Walgreen’s assured me that my health insurance was still terminated. I phoned Anthem again and expressed my unhappiness and asked to speak to a supervisor. Well how very lucky, the man on the other end was a supervisor who just happened to be answering the phone because they were busy. So after we went around and around it became apparent that no one had really done anything since they had located the notes left by the person who had taken phone payment on July 2nd and no on was really going to do anything…in other words, I  could call everyday for the rest of my life and be told the same thing that i had been told on Thursday and Friday and that he tried to tell me first go round on Monday…it has been escalated to a rush and been sent to the finance department. After he got the idea that I wasn’t falling for that and actually thought about the fact that he needed to follow up on what was happening in the finance department he promised to dig into it on Tuesday and give me a call back. Then he gave me his direct line…the one that they give you when they mean they are actually going to do something.He wouldn’t answer he said but I could leave a message and he would call me back.

Sure thing, Tuesday morning, bright and early, Jim called and said that it was all straightened out, the policy reinstated, and that he had personally reinstated the RX portion. I thanked him profusely for doing his job and said that I should probably pay for August now so that they didn’t terminate the policy that they had just supposedly reinstated. He told the additional payment, gave me an RX 800 number to give to Walgreen’s in case they had anymore problems and we hung up.

I eagerly calling Walgreen’s to make sure that they put the prescriptions through before I drove up there. Person #1 at Walgreen’s said it was still showing terminated. Oh, joy to the world.I explained what Jim had said and she said that if I gave her Jim’s number she would call him and then call me back. An hour later, no phone call so I called Jim myself and left a message. Jim called back and said that Walgreen’s had not tried to put the charge through or he would be able to see it on his computer.  And the account from his end, was showing active. I said, well maybe they mixed something up. You see my old account at Anthem and my new account both had the same account number. Cost savings no doubt.

So later the same day, I called Walgreen’s and spoke to person #2. He said that account was still not active. I explained the account number the same issue and gave him the new group number which was different from the old one although he said that they never use the group number. But didn’t matter because nothing worked. I gave him Jim’s number and he said he would call him and then call me back. Another few hours go by and still nothing. I call Walgreen’s again and get person #4 who said still no luck but if I gave her Jim’s number she would call him. Another hour, nothing…I call Jim myself and leave a message. I also called Walgreen’s and asked if they had gotten through to Jim.  Person #5 answered and when I explained the situation he put me on hold and said that he was told that I was supposed to call Jim and call them back. Nope I said, I have given Jim’s number to two different Walgreen’s employees today.

Person #5, Mike,  (Yes, made sure i got his name this time) asked for the number again, said he would call Jim and then me back. I left another message for Jim again myself. He had now not returned my last two calls. This was beyond ridiculous.

Well not as beyond as I would find out later in a voice mail message from Mike. Mike’s message said that he had first called Jim and left a message. No return call. He then used the RX 800 number that Jim had given me and that I then gave him. The people at that number said that he needed to call another number. He did and the people at that number said that the account was terminated but that they would send the issue to a special escalation department and guess what? It would take 2-3 days to reinstate my account. My account that I had now given them both the July and August payment for. The one that I had been told on Friday was being escalated for reinstatement. The one that Jim had left me a message just Tuesday morning tell me had been reinstated.

And it was just a few short months ago when I was trying to have another prescription filled at Walgreen’s and Anthem had switched over their Rx administrator to Express Scripts and it caused some sort of “glitch” in their data base (their word) which showed my account as inactive January 2010. The customer representative knew what the problem was the minute I called, yet they had not notified me or Walgreen’s about the “glitch.” It took a week to straighten that out and just like this time, it became my issue to straighten out. They are the only company that I do business with that does not have online bill pay.They don’t even have automated pay by phone. You must have a customer service rep take your information live. I stopped wondering if their technology was just old to wondering if they even used computers.

You just have to feel good knowing that Anthem is a decision maker for your medical needs….I mean they turn off their phones if there are too many annoying customers calling (you do that, right?). They have employees who can take your payment by phone but no technology to advise them that they have entered a non-existent account number or no way to keep track of premiums that are received other than the notes in an individual customer’s account but they are possibly going to make a decision regarding your need for a lung transplant, a mastectomy or maybe just an antibiotic.

An Anthem Facebook page has 34 likes and at least one isn’t wearing clothes. They are not on Twitter, nor is anyone saying too much nice about them. Not surprising….they are not exactly social ready.

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