Almost nine months after Covered California opened for business, customers are still having a heck of the time reaching their insurance companies. Blue Shield of California is well aware of these issues, company spokesman Sean Barry tells Impatient.
"Some customers haven’t received the service they deserved," he said.
To remedy this, the company hired more call staff, and made it easier to deal with some issues online, he said. Now that the open enrollment deadlines has passed, the average time that customers are forced to wait on the phone has dropped to just over 20 minutes in mid-May, Barry added.
The average call wait time for individual and family plan members (including those who came in through Covered California and new members who enrolled directly through Blue Shield) was 38 minutes in March and 34 minutes in April, Barry said.
"Of course, the average in no way discounts outlier experiences in either direction," he added.
Insurance brokers also say the situation has improved.
"It’s still not where it needs to be, but it has gotten better," said Tom G. Polenzani, president of Pasadena-based Polenzani Benefits and Insurance.
But on social media, customers tell a different story.
So, how widespread of a problem is this, really?
Of the approximately 1,500 complaints reported to the California Department of Managed Health Care since January 1, 49 were from people who could not reach Blue Shield, and 51 from people who could not reach Anthem Blue Cross, said spokeswoman Marta Green.
More of the complaints come from people who haven’t received their ID card or enrollment packet, could not confirm their enrollment, or could not confirm whether their payment was accepted, she said.
What can you do?
When I asked Polenzani, the insurance broker, that question, he laughed. Even insurance professionals have experienced the frustration of being on hold with the company.
For everyone’s sanity, he recommended people exhaust every avenue option online, and then compile a list of questions, before ever picking up the phone.
And if you’re as frustrated as the Impatient reader who originally alerted me to this issue, there’s always the option of contacting the Department of Managed Health Care. Green, the spokeswoman, said the agency will make every effort to connect people with their insurance companies.
"Our number one goal is to try to solve these problems as quickly as possible," she said.
If there’s a violation of the law, she said, the agency would refer the issue to law enforcement. She could not say whether any companies are being investigated.
What's your experience with the customer service at your insurance company? Let us know in the comments section. Or e-mail us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story has been updated.