On Hold: Managing Health Care For A Child With A Chronic Disease – Scary Mommy

On Hold: Managing Health Care For A Child With A Chronic Disease

chronic disease

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I’ve recently had several billing problems with my son’s specialty pharmacy. This is not uncommon when your child has a rare or chronic disease. Pharmacy problems, insurance problems, phone calls, documentation, repeat phone calls—sometimes I feel like I spend all day on the phone or computer (on some days, I actually do).

To give insight to those who don’t live in this world, and in an effort to provide an example of companies offering poor customer service, here is a transcript of my morning. Note that this is the fourth such call this month.

I dial and go through several prompts to attempt to contact the billing department.

[On hold for 8 minutes. Not too bad considering my last call started with 20 minutes on hold.]

Customer Service: This is XXXX in billing. How can I help you?

[Since I’ve already spent three hours this month on this same issue, detailing it every time, sitting on hold (generally 10 to 20 minutes), getting transferred, and explaining the issue again, sometimes getting cut off and other times being told something different each time, I thought I’d try to go a little higher up the food chain. All I’m trying to do is get them to bill my insurance for a month’s worth of medication I received over three weeks ago.]

Me: Can I speak with a billing manager please?

Customer Service: I’m in billing.

Me: Can I speak with a billing manager please?

Customer Service: I’m in billing. I can help you the same way as a billing manager.

Me: We’ve tried to resolve this problem several times, with phone calls each lasting an hour or more, so I need to speak with someone who can resolve it and not have to repeat myself and be transferred.

Customer Service: Okay, let me transfer you.

[On hold for 2 minutes.]

Automated Message: Thank you for calling. Are you a new patient, existing patient, or provider? Please press 1 for new patient, press 2 for existing patient, press 3 for provider.

[I press 2.]

Automated Message: What is the phone number including area code associated with this account?

[I enter my phone number.]

Automated Message: Please hold for our next available patient care advocate.

[On hold for 5 minutes.]

Customer Service: Thank you for calling. This is XXXX in billing. How can I help you?

Me: Can I speak with a billing manager please?

Customer Service: I’m in billing.

Me: Can I speak with a billing manager please? We’ve had a repeated problem so I need to speak with someone who can resolve it and not have to repeat myself and be transferred.

Customer Service: Okay, let me transfer you.


[On hold for 2 minutes.]

Automated Message: Thank you for calling. Are you a new patient, existing patient, or provider? Please press 1 for new patient, press 2 for existing patient, press 3 for provider.

[I press 2.]

Automated Message: What is the phone number including area code associated with this account?

[I enter my phone number.]

Automated Message: We’re sorry, your order cannot be completed through our automatic refill service. Please hold for our next available patient care advocate.

[On hold for 2 minutes.]

Customer Service: Hi, this is XXXX in billing. How can I help you?

Me: Can I speak with a billing manager please?

Customer Service: Okay, let me transfer you.

[On hold for 15 minutes.]

Customer Service: Hi. This is XXXX, and I can try to help you. Can I get some information from you so I can send information over to them when I reach someone?

Me: Sure.

Customer Service: Do you have an account with us?

Me: Yes.

Customer Service: Is this for you, your husband?

Me: My son.

Customer Service: Can I have his last name, please?

Me: XXXX

Customer Service: Can I have his first name, please?

Me: XXXX

Customer Service: Can I have his date of birth, please?

Me: XXXX

Customer Service: Please verify your zip code?

Me: XXXX

Customer Service: Can you please wait a moment while I get the billing department on the line?

Me: I’ve spoken to several people today in the billing department. What I need is a manager who can resolve this issue.

Customer Service: Well, I need to get them on the line first to get a manager. What is your name?

Me: Melissa Hogan.

[On hold for 5 minutes.]

Customer Service: Ms. Hogan, I’m just checking back. I’m waiting for a rep to pick up so I can get a manager for you.

Me: Thank you.

Customer Service: Do you still want to hold, or can I give you a number that you can call back?

Me: I’ve been redirected to the same prompts several times already this morning and spent 40 minutes on this call with no resolution. How else do I resolve this? Do you have a direct number of anyone I can reach?

Customer Service: No. I just have a number for billing.

Me: Is it XXXX? If so, I already have that number.

Customer Service: I just have the same number you have for billing.

Me: I spoke last week to a lady named XXXX who is a resolution team lead. Can you connect me to her?

Customer Service: Let me find her on the phone list.

[On hold for 1 minute.]

Customer Service: Okay, yes, she is a manager. Let me try to connect you.

[On hold for 1 minute.]

Customer Service: Ms. Hogan, she is not answering, but let me try the other line for a supervisor. Can you hold please?

[Minute 42:37 on this call. On hold for 5 minutes.]

Customer Service: Ms. Hogan, I apologize. I’m still waiting for a supervisor. Do you want to continue to hold?

Me: I have no choice. This happens every time I call. I’m 48 minutes invested now. Sure.

Customer Service: OK, I’ll keep trying XXXX as well.

[On hold for 9 minutes.]

Customer Service: Hello, how can I help you? [so quiet, I can barely hear them]

Me: I can barely hear you. Is there a way to turn up the volume?

Customer Service: No. unintelligible] no volume.

Me: Okay, I may need you to repeat things. Are you a billing manager?

Customer Service: No [unintelligible] management.

Me: I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear you. Are you a billing manager?

Customer Service: No, my name is XXXX. I am a member of management.

[I explain the entire debacle, holding back the choice words floating in my head.]

Customer Service: I have in the records that a request was submitted last week for it to be billed. I can reach out to the representative who submitted to the request and check on the status.

Me: Do you not want the money for the $35,000 worth of medication sitting in my fridge? You can “reach out to the representative”? When will this be billed, seeing as how I’ve had this medication for three weeks?

Customer Service: I don’t know what happened before last week. I have in the records that a request was submitted last week for it to be billed. All I can do is reach out to the representative who submitted to the request and check on the status.

Me: And how will I know when this has been billed? My son’s medication bills out at almost $400,000 per year, and I’m not going to order any more until things with you get resolved, if ever.

Customer Service: I will reach out and see what is going on. Let me confirm the information I have. Is your insurance XXXX?

Me: Yes.

Customer Service: I have your phone number as XXX-XXX-XXXX. Is that where I can reach you?

Me: Yes.

Customer Service: I will look into this. Is there anything else I can help you with?

No. [Hell no.]

Customer Service: Thank you for calling.

Me: You’re welcome.

[Minute 58:59. Whew, I made it out before an hour! But by past experience, this will not be the last call.]

If you’ve ever wondered what parents of a child with a rare or chronic disease do all day, or why they often don’t have time for coffee, or can’t put their children in time-consuming sports and other activities, remember this post.

We can spend a ton of time on the phone about our child’s health care.

And then we blog about it.