I tried not to notice the clock as it tick, tick, ticked. I had been on hold for 32 minutes; yes, I said 32 minutes. Years ago that would have sent me through the roof. Today, I'm calmer. I rest the phone in front of me, put it on speaker mode, and continue working on my computer. I think this is called multi-tasking and over the years I've become pretty darn good at it if I do say so myself. Being put on hold is one of the things that simply doesn't bother me anymore. I have learned how to navigate and understand.....insurance companies.
Insurance. We all need it. We are all glad to have it. But insurance and the companies that provide it, are a business. If you are thinking this is all about money you are correct. That is a different story for another time; but if you understand that health insurance is a business, it’s the first step in helping you navigate the process.
Insurance companies have a job to do, and the readier you are to give them what they need to get their job done, the easier it will be for you. There could be tens of thousands of people who have insurance coverage with Company XYZ. Countless calls come in every day with a limited number of customer service reps to serve you. Keep in mind, they will not remember your call four minutes after you hang up. How could they? The numbers are simply too large.
Here's my recipe for success. First, anytime you speak to an insurance company, have a note book and a pen handy (or a laptop if you are more technologically inclined). Write the date at the top and include a brief note. For example: November 3rd, 2:00 pm; spoke to Susie Smith regarding a bill dispute—my actual reason for calling today. (Note: They will rarely offer up a last name but you should always ask for it and while you're at it, try to get a phone extension, too.)
As you call and are transferred (you will be transferred), leave a space on the page in case you want to add notes later. Continue this pattern of note taking. Always write down who you spoke to, what you asked, and what was covered in the conversation.
Next, record action steps such as: what was accomplished during that part of the call; when and to whom you were transferred, etc. That way you can refer to the conversation with the next person which is a good way to keep moving the process forward. It’s not the rep's job to remember your facts. They might have some notes, but it's up to you to keep accurate information so you can recognize errors.
Always have your primary care’s information and your insurance card information on hand. Before you call your insurance company, it's a good idea to anticipate that it will not be a short phone call. Be ready. Prepare things you can do or accomplish that will make use of your waiting time.
As I write this article, I'm actually on hold with my insurance company. So far it's been about two hours and we still have not even found the right person to speak to; I’m not kidding. I have been disconnected three times and when I call back, I ask for the person by name (because I wrote it down) and was told that no one has that name. When I give the extension number (I also wrote that down) I'm told the person I'm speaking with is at that extension number! I am stunned each time this occurs. But I'm also determined to solve my problem.
I am not new at this. In fact, I consider myself a professional wait-er (as in a person accomplished at the task of waiting; not restaurant table service). I’m well aware how most insurance companies work and truthfully, it’s rarely better anywhere else, so I have learned patience. I have not wasted my time. I've accomplished other things during my call waiting time. So far the ‘actual’ conversation between me and a human has been about 3.5 minutes over the last 2 hours.
When a live person gets back on the phone, I calmly tell him or her what has transpired and then politely ask for help solving the problem. If I get aggravated—the insurance company wins. If I hang up in frustration—they don't care.
Over the years, I've found that staying busy until I am once again connected to a person is a good distraction and helps to keep me calm. At times, this is much easier said than done. But if you appreciate how bad it can be, then when it’s not SO hard…..it seems like a piece of cake. So far today I've spoken with: Bobbi, Laci, Doris, Jennifer, Misty, Nicole, Kerry, and Leila. They all work in some capacity for my insurance company whose name I cannot reveal.
My total call lasted 3 hours, and guess what? I have to dial in again tomorrow because the offices are now closed!!! Patience is not a virtue, it's a science. A learned science that can be honed over time. My determination to get my issue resolved surpasses my desire to reach through the phone and punch a nose.
(As a follow-up ending to the story, I called the next day and received a genuine apology for the error—theirs. My daughter’s diabetes management sensors are now in the mail.)
I am a DiabetesDad.