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Friday, May 13, 2011

Customer (Lack of) Service

I don’t blame the people I talk to. It’s everyone else in the world I blame.  As a member of the sandwich generation I’m snuggled uncomfortably between raising a teenager and caring for a aging parent.  Both can require full-time devotion. Both can require the patience of a saint.  Luckily for me, my son is kind, thoughtful and full of common sense because I have never been mistaken for a saint.

Unluckily for me I have a parent who does, for the moment, require all my time.  She is unto herself as they say, a piece of work.  But she’s all I got so I’m trying to make the best of it while the rest of the world conspires against me.

Case in point. I want to switch her cell phone to a “friends and family plan” I want to pay her phone bills both cell and land lines.  I want to suspend her home phone service while she’s in the nursing home.  I want to have a message on her home phone referring callers to my number.  One might think in the age of the Internet that this would be a slam-dunk since they are all with Verizon. Think again.  I cannot do any of this via their website.

3 hours of calls -- separate phone numbers and operators for each service and service change.  How many times do I need to be on hold listening to their promotion for Verizon Vios?  Even when I finally get to a breathing living human being, they want to know if I would be interested in bundling her cell, land and internet access for $99 a month .... Hello, did you not hear that my mother is in a nursing home? 

Adding insult to injury, I am told in one conversation that I may pay her bills by phone. However I will incur a $3.50 fee for the privilege of doing so. I am incensed. “Oh, it’s not a charge from Verizon, it’s blah-blah-blah company.” 

“Really? Well just because the name of the payment processing facility doesn’t include the word Verizon, does not mean that the money doesn’t go to Verizon. Do you understand how insulting this conversation is to me?”

Then I try to get her home phone service taken care of.  I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I literally needed to hang up and call a different phone number to complete my business. Cell phone and land line customer service exist in two different universes. As a matter of fact just yesterday two Verizon Fios representatives rang my brother’s doorbell at home. He opened the door to a young man and woman who went into a sales pitch.  He told them that he hated Verizon (he had used them as an internet provider years ago) and that his sister (lovely me) had just had the most horrendous experience dealing with their phone services. “Oh, but we’re Verizon Fios, we don’t have anything to do with the phone services!”

Again, do you understand how insulting this conversation is to me? Hey doorbell ringers, can you spell Jehovah?

So I have switched my mother over to my account. One less bill for her to worry about I think. Today, three days after the switch, Horizon called her cell phone to tell her that she had exceeded her monthly minutes. (It was actually my phone calls that did it, handling all of the nonsense required to make it all easier.)  She was upset by the call because at this stage of her life, she’s upset by any phone call.  So I decided to handle it from work. Why they were calling her, the new addition to our service, was beyond me. I called the 888 number she had been given. The sales rep who eventually got on the phone asked my for my billing code number. I did not have the billing code with me but I did have all 6 phone numbers we have with Verizon.  I was told nothing could be done without the billing code so I asked to speak with a supervisor. I was told that the gentleman I was speaking with is a supervisor.  So I concluded my conversation with “ Your customer service is disgraceful. I hope this call is being taped.”

Not to be upstaged by Verizon, there is their cousin Horizon, the company with the perfect prefix. You know the “Health Care provider”.  How does an insurance company become a health care provider? Does it take your temperature?  Does it diagnose your ailments?  Where are the advertising police on this one? 

 Horizon provides what is euphemistically called “managed” health care which means they manage to charge you more, the more you use it.  At least that’s their strategy when it comes to elder care. They attract a large cluster of senior citizens by providing insurance policies with low premiums and then, when you really need services because you’re getting older and more decrepit, you pay for every aspirin, every sheet of TP and they may limit your days in the hospital or nursing home in any way they choose.  My mother fell into this trap and I’m trying to pull her out of it.

The coverage she has is called Horizon Medicare New Jersey, but it is not Medicare, it is just another insurance company. But by using Medicare and New Jersey in its name, it would be easy to see how someone might be confused. Seeking to extract her from this I was told by the business manager at her nursing home that the managed care coverage could not be just cancelled, it would require that she spend three consecutive days in the hospital to receive regular Medicare. 

This is not true, this is just boneheaded information and just one of the many substandard services and information the facility has provided.  Even the people at Horizon told me this when I called them.  But in order to have her released from the insurance, I was told by Horizon Medicare that it requires a “special election”.  What, I asked, was a “special election”?  I was told that because she is requesting Medicare outside of their “open enrollment period” that I had multiple forms to complete to get a waiver to enable her to do this. 

Then I was told that I would also need to complete a “Formulary” for her.  A what? A Formulary is the name for the list of prescription medications she receives.  I asked if everyone at Horizon called it a Fulmonary.  I was told that they do. Then I asked that she email all these forms to me so I could figure out what to do next.

I hung up and called Medicare. Not fake Medicare, the real one. I had a couple of questions for them.  

1. What is a special election? Bonilia at Real Medicare said I must mean a "special enrollment election."  The inclusion of the word enrollment at least helped to clarify what my mother, the new office holder, was up against.  I aksed if this was a Medicare term.  “Yes, it is” I was told.

2. How about a Formulary? Is that a Medicare term as well. “Oh, yes it is but Medicare needs to determine if she is a Tier 1 or Tier 2 recipient. “ Ok, I give up. What does that mean?  “Well we need to look at all the prescription medications she is receiving and determine whether we will cover it or not.“  What is the reason for covering or not covering a particular drug? I asked. Is it related to the cost?  “The ingredients in non generic drugs differ from generic drugs.  We need to examine whether or not we cover the particular ingredient.”  So, going back to my original question, is it related to the cost of the drug?  “Well, it is related to the cost of the particular ingredients.” Again, so this comes down to the cost of the drug.  “Well, yes I guess it  is.”  

Then I asked, when is the open enrollment period. To which she replied that “this year is was October 15th to December 7th.” 

What do you mean this year?  Does the open enrollment period for Medicare (which we all pay for with our taxes) change year to year? And if it changes, how do you notify the eligible consumer what the new open enrollment period is?  

“We send them letters every year. Every United States Medicare receipient, whether managed care or not, receive notification via mail. Last year the open enrollment period was November 15 to December 31.”  

So then I asked, well why does the open enrollment period change each year.  The Medicare person was unable to tell me why.  I asked if she could Email a copy of a typical letter to me. No, she could not.  It’s no wonder our national deficit is out of control. How much is Medicare spending to send snail mail to seniors every year?  Why do the open enrollment dates need to change?  I have a headache.

I have to stop now because I need to make another 50 phone calls to people who provide information that is wrong and boneheaded from the scripts sitting in front of them at their little cubicles earning minimum wage and deciding the fate of our families.

1 comment:

  1. Is it coincidence that you posted this on Friday the 13th. I hear ya'. Rant on!!! (And thank you for using Verizon.)