Thursday, March 22, 2007

Stupid Admin Tricks

Well, why not? We've had Stupid Carrier and Stupid Client tricks, and now we have a new category.
So what brings this on?
One of my groups, which has been a client for almost 20 years, recently agreed with me that they should change from their generic co-pay plan to a high deductible plan coupled with an HRA (Health Reimbursement Arrangement). The primary benefits of this move were two-fold: the employer saved a great deal on the premium (one of those unfortunately-rare cases where the price differential was substantial), and could afford to generously fund the reimbursement account.
Regular IB readers know that we almost always redact the names of carriers when we discuss them. This is not so much for purposes of liability as it is that most carriers do stupid things, so that it is not really useful to identify which one in any given scenario. But what happened in this instance was so egregious that I feel compelled to actually name the entity involved.
The carrier we're using in this case owns an HRA administrative company, called Definity. Their offer is simple and attractive: if you write your case with the parent company, Definity will set up and administer your HRA for free. This can be significant: set-up fees alone can run into the hundreds of dollars, and on-going administrative services into the thousands.
Still, it is said that free advice is worth what you pay for it, and so appears to be the case with free HRA administrative services.
Of a Monday, I called the number I had, to get the ball rolling (arrange for paperwork and instructions to be sent to the client). But when I called the number I had been given (by the carrier), the "gentleman" who answered refused to identify either himself or his company. That was odd, so I asked if I had gotten the right number, was this Definity? Instead of answering this reasonably straight-forward question, he asked if I was a "member." Hunh?
So I asked again, had I connected with Definity. He replied that he couldn't tell me that (would he have had to kill me?) unless I confirmed that I was a member. I pointed out that he was being moronic, that all I wanted to know was whether or not I had dialed the correct number, and if this was indeed Definity. He refused to budge, so I asked for his supervisor. I was told that "Dan" was not going to be available to me, and I observed that this was idiotic. The "gentleman" objected to this characterization, and warned me that if I persisted, he would hang up. I replied "Too late!" and disconnected. Redialing the number, I was connected with a different person, who was apparently empowered to divulge the fact that this was, in fact, Definity, but that the number I had been given was for claims, not "sales," and that she couldn't connect me to that one.
At this point, it occurred to me that I had learned something quite valuable: if these folks were this incompetent when I'm trying to get a relatively simple plan set up, I can only imagine how poorly they would have managed the arrangement itself. Thankfully, I was able to save my client from such a fate by referring him to a local admin who charges a reasonable fee for his services. It's true: Definity's plan was free but, at that, it would have been far too expensive for my tastes.
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