UPDATED: Louis Adams, the media director for the Dallas branch of Blue Cross Blue Shield, got back to us with a statement via email on Monday morning:
"Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas understands our members' frustration as they call our customer service line, which has experienced high volume and long wait times. We are working hard to support our new and existing members by adding call center representatives and extending our call center hours to 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday - Friday and 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday. Our website is prepared to handle very high amounts of traffic for new enrollments and customer service requests. Members can visit the BCBSTX website (www.bcbstx.com) to find answers to frequently asked questions. We know that our members' time is valuable and we are working very hard to deliver the level of customer service they have come to expect from us."
To translate, they are extending the call center hours -- though we can't help but wonder why it took so long -- and if you have a question basic enough to be answered by the frequently asked questions part of the site, you can go there and avoid the whole call center debacle entirely. Otherwise, if you're still wanting for real communication with someone from Texas Blue Cross Blue Shield, it seems that patience is a virtue you had best develop quick.
ORIGINAL POST: If you have Texas Blue Cross Blue Shield, the odds are good you have sat on the phone enjoying their hold music recently.
Cat Jeanes, of Austin, has definitely gotten an earful of that happy snappy guitar that plays on the automated system, and she isn't alone, judging by the other complaints surfacing on social media.
Jeanes is having her first baby any day now. She's 37 weeks along, she and her husband know it's going to be a boy. They have a name all picked out - Indiana Jeanes. "He's going to have his own theme music," she said.
And since she and her husband are self-employed - he's in real estate and she quit her public relations gig when they started a family - they buy their own health insurance. They were already with Texas Blue Cross Blue Shield, but the plan they were on didn't provide any maternity care, so when the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) got started they went online and changed their plan.
Like Fred Rhodes, a Houston lawyer who first brought the issues with Blue Cross Blue Shield to our attention on Wednesday, Jeanes and her husband paid the premium, got their new insurance cards and started doing all the things you do when you're about to have a baby - namely going to the doctor and picking up prescriptions.
The people at the doctor's office couldn't pull up Jeanes's information, which seemed odd, but a call confirmed that she was covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, Jeanes said. But then she tried to fill her prescriptions. The pharmacist said she wasn't in the Blue Cross Blue Shield system and when the pharmacist called a Blue Cross Blue Shield representative, Jeanes was told that she was listed as having been uninsured since 2008, which was odd since she had her newly issued insurance card in hand and the payment already went through to guarantee her coverage, she said.
Jeanes has gestational diabetes so she went ahead and picked up her prescriptions, paying for it all out of pocket. The Walgreens pharmacist said they could refund her the money if she got things straightened out with the insurance company in five days. The CVS pharmacist said she'd get a refund if she could sort things out within seven days. That was back at the first of the year and since then Jeanes has been taking turns with her husband calling Blue Cross Blue Shield.
That has meant hours waiting on hold, with the automated system generally hanging up on her after about an hour, so she'd have to start all over again. Jeanes has yet to speak to a real person, she said.
She has also tried email and has posted on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Facebook wall. That was the only time she got a response. Someone from the company replied to the thread and asked her to private message the account with her information so the problem could be sorted out. That was last week and she hasn't heard anything since, she said. Jeanes also noticed she wasn't alone in having problems contacting the company. There are messages all over the Blue Cross Blue Shield Twitter and Facebook accounts with people lodging complaints about how they signed up for health insurance and paid the premium only to find they aren't covered by health insurance.
Similar complaints are showing up on Blue Cross Blue Shield Facebook pages in other states, including Illinois and Michigan (BCBS is comprised of 38 health insurance organizations and companies across the country.) People across Texas are taking to social media to complain about not being covered and not being able to actually talk to anyone from Texas Blue Cross Blue Shield:
— HelensDaughter (@TraceyNew) January 8, 2014
— HelensDaughter (@TraceyNew) January 9, 2014
This isn't the first issue Jeanes has had with the company either. When she and her husband signed up for their new health insurance plan in December, the company's payment system wasn't working so they were advised to use a middle-man payment company, she said. The company only allows payments up to $450 and charges $10 per payment. Since the premium was $750 they had to pay $20 for the privilege of paying it. Meanwhile, Rhodes is still trying to get in touch with an actual person at Blue Cross Blue Shield. He even tried emailing the media director for the Dallas branch of Blue Cross Blue Shield, Louis Adams.
Adams called us back yesterday after we submitted some questions about the problems Rhodes was experiencing. He said he'd get back to us ASAP with answers or a comment, but sadly we haven't heard back from him since. We emailed and called in the hopes of getting some clarification on what is going on with Blue Cross Blue Shield, but so far Adams seems to have gone silent.
Rhodes hasn't heard back from him either but he did receive a reply to his second email sent in asking why he received two insurance cards with his name on it, and is still waiting on an insurance card for his wife. The reply email, received Thursday afternoon, is very polite: Dear George (Fred goes by Fred but it's his middle name, legality-wise), I have forwarded your request to the appropriate department for further review. You will be notified once the outcome is determined.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact our customer service department at the toll-free number on the back of your Blue Cross Blue Shield identification card or via the Message Center on Blue Access.
Then he got a call from an administrator late Thursday afternoon. The administrator apologized for the problems and the long delay with reaching customer service, Rhodes said. She explained that the prescription information for Rhodes and his wife had not been properly uploaded into the system and proceeded to manually input the information. He called CVS and confirmed with them that everything was in order. (We're imagining that he then self high-fived and did a I-have-my-insurance-worked-out celebration dance, but he didn't mention it, so probably not.)
The quest to talk to a real person hasn't panned out for Jeanes yet, but it looks like they'll at least get a more apologetic response if they take to Twitter. The Texas Blue Cross Blue Shield handle, @BCBSTX is filled with Tweets responding and apologizing for the problems customers have been experiencing. Lots and lots of apologies.
@Longhorn_faith We owe you a much better service experience. DM us your call back number and we'll reach out to help.
— BCBSTX (@BCBSTX) January 9, 2014
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@TraceyNew If you've paid out of pocket for services that are covered under your policy, you can submit your receipt for reimbursement.
— BCBSTX (@BCBSTX) January 9, 2014
— BCBSTX (@BCBSTX) January 9, 2014