Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rat in a Maze

It's bad enough that I have to play a single working parent, covering both drop off and pickup and working at home and the office in between. But I am a patient as well. A year ago, Anthem Blue Cross decided to unilaterally cut physicians' compensation by 25% for their PPO plans, citing losses. (They managed to "upstream" a billion dollars to their parent organization and pay their fired CFO almost a hundred million dollars to get lost. Hmm.)

Anyway, many doctors dropped out of my PPO plan after that and I have to go out of network to see the same doctors I used to see. That was a factor in deciding to pay insurance premiums twice, so I get dual coverage with automatic cross-billing and coordination of benefits. I pay double premiums, but I get to see the same doctors for a predictable annual fee.

The downside is that I have to pay out of network doctors up front, and then wait for the reimbursement checks in the mail. That's not too bad because most doctors take credit cards.

Mark was out of town and I had a 4:15 PM appointment. Iris' daycare charges $2/minute after 6:00 PM. That should be enough buffer for a simple appointment.

  • the doctor ran 45 minutes late (there is no quick way to tell someone they have melanoma, and she had to break the news to three seniors today, backing her up)
  • the doctor spent a lot of time with me, going over different treatment options and possible side effects for my psoriasis
  • I got out of the treatment room at 5:35, and Iris' daycare/school is 10-15 minutes away, depending upon traffic lights
  • I whipped out my USBank-issued Visa card and it was declined with the cryptic message, "Call Auth Ctr"
  • The staffer asked if I had $$$ cash?
  • No, I never carry that much cash on me.
  • I called the 800 number, which welcomed me to their "Concierge Level Service", which wasted precious minutes while congratulating me on qualifying for concierge service, but I still had to navigate a voice menu hell before I got a live person
  • Then the person told me that I had a customer service problem, not a concierge problem, and that I had to call a different number, not printed on my card
  • She transferred me to customer service, which asked me to give my card # and zip code before transferring me
  • But then I was "selected" to answer a "2-minute customer service questionaire" before they would transfer me to a human being
  • I screamed into the phone, as much as I am able to scream through my hacking cough (another story)
  • A live operator came on and made me verify my information all over again
  • Then she asked if I had charged something to a fish house; that set off a fraud freeze on my account.
No, but my husband is on business travel in Houston, maybe he ate seafood.

Can you tell me the name of the restaurant he ate at?

No, if it's in Houston, it was probably him.

We can't tell where this was charged.

Can you just unfreeze my account so I can pay my doctor's bill and get out of here?

Not until you tell us if this is a legitimate charge.

Can you tell me how much was charged at the fish house?

$29 today in Houston.

You told me that you can't tell where it was charged, but you can tell it's in Houston now?

I just unfroze your account. It will take 2-3 minutes for it to take effect. But, do it quick. I will make a note that he is in Houston, but the computer will automatically freeze your account again if he uses it, and you will have to call us back to unfreeze it.

I hand my card over to the staffer and it went through. Huzzah!

5:52 PM and I dash to the elevator and then to my car.

I hit EVERY RED LIGHT possible.

I am late. But two other parents were also there at the same time. Will they charge us? We'll find out in the next billing cycle. If I get charged, I am sending the bill to US Bank.

I don't feel like cooking dinner.

If you sit at Rice Things long enough, you can say "hi" to the whole neighborhood. Cops, even LAPD and LA County Sheriffs from miles around, eat there. And you will meet quite a few tired parents from Iris' nearby school, too. Eating comfort food, with Iris, surrounded by our neighbors, my blood pressure returns to semi-normal.

Mark will be home in three more hours.

Customer service says they have been tightening up on fraud. Going forward, we need to call them each time we travel. My husband travels 30% time for work. I travel 10% time for work. We also travel as a family.

Is there a phone number we can call to reach a human to alert them about upcoming travel? A number that doesn't involve voice menu hell?


Is there a website we can use to alert them of upcoming travel?



  1. Oh, man, have I had days like that. And I want to kill credit card companies!

  2. If you use a Visa, watch out for the Salvation Army on Marine/Inglewood. Last week they declined my card, then I got home to a call from the bank--did I intend to charge a $99,400 donation to Salvation Army? No, no I don't think I will ever manage to spend five figures at a thriftshop. Then it happened again this week. Seems their machine misreads a $19.94 Visa charge as $99,400, and other ridiculous errors. Mastercard, no problem. Grrrr--my bile freezes when I get those calls from the bank.

    (And yeah, we called ahead to let them know we'd be using the card in Italy when we were traveling there. A friend tipped me to that precaution, probably saved us a big Roman headache.)

  3. Oh that sucks.

    Maybe switch credit cards? I always call Citibank to tell them I'm traveling, and it never takes more than a couple of minutes.

  4. I think the temporary solution is to carry a second card.

    I recently had a call from my CC fraud unit alerting me to several suspicious charges. They were right - but the fraud person had a limited grasp of English and we confused each other: I was left to call the merchant myself, with no supporting documentation. I ended up calling the fraud unit back (after wading through many levels of automated menus and a gatekeeper operator) and speaking to someone else.

  5. Ugh, sometimes our convenience filled lives are very inconvenient.

  6. Your post reminded me that my dermatologist still owes me some money. Like your doctor, she dropped out of Anthem Blue Cross and insists on being paid at each visit. Last September, Anthem sent the reimbursement check to her instead of to me. I was told by her office that I would be sent a refund check but so far, nada. If it were the other way round, I doubt they would have wasted any time sending me a bill.

    I always carry two credit cards with me for unexpected problems like yours. I have never had trouble with travel, but there was one day I went on a clothes-buying spree and when I went to make my final purchase (same store, same card I had been using all day), the card was refused.


Comments are open for recent posts, but require moderation for posts older than 14 days.