Monday, July 18, 2016

I Wouldn't Buy a Dishwasher From These People

My regular medications have been on automatic refill with BCBSAZ for years.  They called and emailed to let me know when a refill was on its way; just as I began to worry that I was running out, BCBSAZ reassured me that all was well.  They allowed me to cancel the refill with one click.  If the doctor's office was tardy in replying to their request for a new prescription, they let me know.

And so, because the system wasn't broken, they decided to fix it.

I was vaguely aware of the change, but managed to switch one of my prescriptions during a phone call requesting my assistance with contacting the doctor for an updated 'scrip.  It took some time, but the woman was lovely and the pills, I hope, are on their way.  I didn't need more of the other medication for two months.  I said I'd wait to deal with it.

And so, when I received a lovely letter from the new provider, OPTUMRx, with this optimistic greeting:

I decided to renew the other prescription.  I had nothing else to do.  105outside means I stay inside.  Rather than start the third Phryne Fisher mystery (you really should try them; they are absolutely perfect), I went on-line to try.

The website requested a copy of my prescription.  Since this wasn't a new medication for me, I didn't have a prescription; I just had the bottle with the prescription number on it.  Mildly frustrated, but still willing, I called BCBSAZ.

Let me assure you, denizens, the phone experience was no more Hassle-Free than going on-line.

The first question is: Who Chose The Muzak?  Mozart, Patsy Cline, Jerry Garcia... music exists which does not assault my eardrums and my psyche.  Scratchy, easy listening, sloppily played light jazz is not on that list.  Unfortunately, fifteen minutes or so of the hour we spent together was purely one-sided; they played, I tried not to listen, I played silly computer games, and I waited for a supervisor.

The young man who eventually answered my call requested verification of my identity (but different questions than were asked to get through voice mail to him... giving credit where credit is due), asked me what I wanted to do, and then told me I couldn't do it.

"There is only one refill left.  It won't let me do it."

Rather than argue with him, I asked him to transfer me to a supervisor.  (Cue the bad music.)  Even though he assured me that "They won't tell you anything that I am not telling you," I had higher hopes and so I waited. (Keep hearing that music.)  After 10 minutes or so he came back to assure me that he was "still waiting for a supervisor to pick up,"  so I stopped feeling ignored and went back to smashing colorful objects, reminding him that I had nothing else to do this afternoon, and that I would wait as long as it took.

I'm glad I waited.

Barbara came on the line, calling me by name, verifying the pronunciation before she said anything more than Hello.  I was smitten.  I might not be able to reorder a generic, but BCBSAZ was suddenly treating me with respect.

What could she do for me?  I told her that either the system or their training was broken - that rather than tell me I can't do something and stopping right there, the agent might have been given me a plan.  I told her that I was fairly competent, but if my fragile, elderly mother had called and been brushed aside as I was, the results would have been unpleasant - tears at best, unfilled medication at worst.  "This isn't ice cream we're ordering; it's life saving pharmaceuticals on which we rely." 

She tried.  She wondered what the agent was thinking.  She asked if I'd hold while she did some investigation, paused, and offered to call me back.  Relieved that I would be spared more awful tunes, I told her that I'd be home for an hour, and I thanked her on behalf of my ears.

She laughed.

I played some more, wrote a letter, made ice tea, and answered the phone.  The news wasn't great, but it was delivered with dignity and graciousness and a real understanding of the issue. There is no way to enter the prescription in the system unless I want an immediate refill.  If I want the pills in two months, I have to call back again, go through voice mail (Cue the music), and deal with another agent.... one who might be better than the young man whose behavior so confounded his supervisor that she was planning to have a chat with him right after she was sure that I was okay.

She agreed with everything I said.  She spoke with precision and thoughtfulness.  She listened and she heard and she acted.  When I told her that I wouldn't buy a dishwasher from a company which treated me this way, when I said that health care was too important for me to be left in such a situation, when I wondered why I was being treated poorly when I am among the least expensive patients they have to insure, she didn't try to justify the unjustifiable.  I could feel her nodding as I heard her murmured agreement.

So, I'll call back in a few months and try again.  Meanwhile, I'm sending this post to Barbara and her supervisor, because amid all the confusion and the road blocks she never once made me feel as if I were to blame.  She made me feel like a valued customer.  She is a keeper..... and she deserves a raise.


  1. I have two prescriptions that I take on a fairly regular basis. Then there are the odds and ends prescribed here and there. All of this drug business is done with one local, independent pharmacy. The owner stands behind the counter. I trust her with my life.

    1. We had that kind of relationship with our pharmacist in Marin. He diagnosed poison oak when the pediatrician on vacation prescribed antibiotics for a rash... and the rash was still there. You are lucky; we have no independent pharmacies here.

  2. I hate dealing with health insurance. It's such a PITA. And the guy you originally spoke with should be dealt with. Nothing annoys me more than a person saying my supervisor is going to tell you the same thing. How does he know that? And it's a total cop-out. He's trying to get you to just hang-up.

    Glad Barbara helped you out--even if just to put a human behind the phone. And her good customer service just made him look more like an idiot. I do hope she chats with him. He's obviously lacking.

    Happy Monday.

    Megan xxx

  3. So sorry for such a horrible experience! Which is why I never, ever take the mail order prescription option.

    I have been getting all prescriptions at the pharmacy at my local grocery (national chain, Ive used their pharmacy in several states) for several reasons. The first time was pre-mail order Rx services, and one of my specialist docs said to always ask the pharmacist what the cash price (not via insurance copay) would be - almost always cheaper- and mine will match other prices (think Costco). I just filled a prescription that would have been $90 with insurance. Via the Costco match, it was $35. All no hassle.

    Second, I order refills on line, and if a new script for refill is needed they just automatically contact the doc and it is ready the same or next day. For new prescriptions, they're ready by the time I get there from the doc's office. I do go pick them up, but I'm at the store anyway and it's nearby.

    Finally, I never have to wait when I call, and I always talk to the pharmacist (who knows me and my regular meds). I could go on, but I'm just so much happier than friends and family who use mail order.

    This is a lot of explanation to say that with a good local pharmacy it's so much easier!

    good luck!

    1. The old system, with Walgreens Mail Order, worked well for me, since my local pharmacy (where they know and love me) is also a Walgreens. I have confidence that this system will also be simple, tho I will regret not being able to get a refill on the corner when I need one.


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