Feb. 17--Florida Blue customers are continuing to complain about billing glitches, customer service nightmares and policies wrongly cancelled or not activated when promised.
On Thursday, the company again apologized, noting in a prepared statement that it doubled its Affordable Care Act membership to just over 1 million over the most recent open enrollment period that ended Jan. 31. Previously, the company said it has picked up many subscribers left stranded by the departures of UnitedHealthcare and Cigna from ACA marketplaces this year.
Florida Blue did not provide the number of complaints it has received or resolved, saying only that they represent a "small percentage" of more than 5 million total members.
Since Jan. 9, the state Division of Consumer Services has received 524 complaints about the company, according to a division spokeswoman. Not all of them were specific to a billing glitch, she said. A comparison number from 2016 would not be available in time for this edition, she said.
The company has not discovered any systemic causes for the problems, Florida Blue spokesman Doug Bartel said. But he stressed that additional training and processes have been put in place to reduce problems in the future.
Yet, those explanations don't sit well with plan members who can't make doctor appointments or order prescription drugs because their policies show up in computer systems as "cancelled."
Members have been emailing the Sun Sentinel several times a week since stories about the glitches were published on Jan. 9 and Jan. 19.
"We currently show 'cancelled' in their system causing major problems as we have several medical issues now," Eustis resident Rob Catron wrote on Wednesday. "Their support, including the retail office support has been useless. This has been going on for months."
Janice Quinn of Jupiter wrote that she submitted a payment in November and was told her policy would be in force by January. But when she picked up her prescriptions in early January, she "was shocked to learn that Publix said that my insurance was inactive."
Quinn and Catron, plus other Florida Blue members who emailed the Sun Sentinel, were referred to Bartel, the Florida Blue spokesman. He promised to escalate the cases.
In follow-up emails this week, most of those customers said their problems were ultimately resolved.
"Everything finally seems to be settled. Just got the ID card in the mail a couple days ago," wrote Amy Flynn.
A majority of issues identified by Florida Blue's review "center around verifying a plan is active and paid," the company's statement said. "As we have become aware that a member is experiencing a problem, our Service team has been acting quickly to contact each person individually and promptly resolve the matter."
On the right side of Florida Blue's Facebook page is a section titled Visitor Posts containing numerous complaints posted daily, followed by commiserating replies from other members experiencing similar issues.
On Wednesday, member Marion Myers of Malabar posted a screenshot of her iPhone showing she had been on hold with the company for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Vero Beach resident Dale Glading posted videos to Facebook on Wednesday chronicling his drive to Florida Blue's corporate headquarters in Jacksonville on Wednesday to ask why his and his wife's policies had not been activated "dozens of phone calls" and seven weeks after paying $1,144 in premiums.
"When I went to the ER yesterday, I was treated like an indigent person because my policy was once again listed as inactive," he said in the first of several videos that drew hundreds of viewers, including several who cheered him on and said they faced similar issues.
The payment was applied to a "long ago defunct policy and they can't figure out how to move it from one pot to another," he said.
After being turned away at the front gates of the headquarters, Glading waited in a nearby parking lot and was finally met by two Florida Blue executives. He posted a final report saying the couples' policies were activated and in force.
He praised the executives' "class, empathy and professionalism" but added, "It shouldn't take seven weeks, dozens of phone calls and a 400-mile round trip drive to Jacksonville to fix a simple clerical error."
Florida Blue is one of 36 separate health insurance companies that are part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
The "Blues" as they are known, absorbed millions of ACA marketplace plans over the past two years as giants UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, Humana, and Aetna sharply pulled back from ACA marketplaces.
An August 2016 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that three of every 10 counties in the United States would have just a single marketplace insurer in 2017. Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliates were the sole insurer in nearly all counties left with just one plan.
Enrollment and billing glitches have been reported in several states over the past three years.
Florida Blue experienced enrollment and billing glitches in both 2016 and 2014.
Customer service issues rankled members of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois in 2016.
And last year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina was fined $3.6 million by insurance regulators in that state following complaints by nearly 3,500 customers and medical providers through August about over-billing, double-billing, failing to confirm coverage, canceling coverage, and delayed reimbursements, according to the Charlotte News and Observer.
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