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How will Blue Cross restore customers’ trust?

The new year dawned with a scary question: Did I have health insurance?

Chances were good. One of the fortunate 49% of Americans, I’m offered health insurance through my employer, the owners of this magazine. I filled out the paperwork to leave my husband’s plan on Dec. 31 and join Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina on my own. But Jan. 1 arrived without a health insurance card. No letter. Nothing. Should I double up on my portion of good-luck black-eyed peas and collards and hope for the best this New Year’s Day? #hoppinjohn

 

Turns out, I was a victim of bad timing. Thousands of customers had it much worse, accidentally enrolled by Blue Cross into the wrong health plans. Blue Cross drafted bank accounts for incorrect amounts, often overcharging. Most of the people affected are insured under the Affordable Care Act, but others on individual policies were also swept up in the chaos. As customers began to suspect problems, they flooded call centers, which reported a 400-500% increase in traffic.

CEO Brad Wilson apologized in a video, in personal phone calls to customers and on Blue Cross’ website.

But has Blue Cross really owned up to how widespread the problem really was and still is?Wilson said the problems affected 1% of its 3.9 million customers. But how many others like me were indirectly affected, awaiting subscriber cards? Days before news of the problems broke, I was astonished when a recorded voice on the other end of Blue Cross’ customer service line informed me that the insurer was experiencing technical problems. Click. Multiple follow-up calls put me on hold for more than an hour. One woman reportedly waited seven hours on hold.

Customers took to social media to complain.

 

Angry posts filled the insurer’s Facebook page from frustrated customers caught by what they saw as Catch-22 suggestions. A callback option would save long waits on hold – but only until a daily queue was filled. Checking coverage online only worked if you had a subscriber ID. Customer service hours that mostly begin at 8 a.m. and end at 7 p.m. further infuriated commenters.

When I reached a live (and amazingly upbeat) customer service representative who sympathized with my frustration that I couldn’t get an answer to a simple question – was I covered? – I was still shuttled to different call centers and, like others, disconnected more than once in the process. I was told that I needed to talk to someone in billing. Billing told me I had reached the department handling individual policies and needed to talk to someone who handled group policies. Didn’t they have different phone numbers for these departments? No, I was told.

I eventually gave up. The insurance card I had been waiting for arrived on Jan. 9. I felt like Willy Wonka receiving the golden ticket.

 

Despite the several hundred million dollars Blue Cross invested in IT provider Trizetto, which was acquired by Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp in a $2.7 billion deal in 2014, my reassurance came the old-fashioned way, by U.S. mail.

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Allison Williamshttps://businessnc.com
Allison Williams is senior editor of Business North Carolina. You can reach her at awilliams@businessnc.com.

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