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Can’t Get Through to Your Health Insurer? Vent on Twitter

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Posted on Jan 29, 2014

By Charles Ornstein, ProPublica

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Fed-up consumers, armed with questions and concerns about their new health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, are flocking to social media websites to seek answers and vent their frustrations.

For some, it’s because they can’t get through on the phone. For others, it’s a way of getting attention right away before trying phones or email.

This digital equivalent of line-jumping appears to be working.

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A week ago, New Jersey writer Jen A. Miller sent a tweet asking:

Anyone else having problems with the @horizonbcbsnj site? I’d LIKE to pay my bill, but they don’t seem to want to take my $$.

2014 Jen A. Miller (@byJenAMiller) January 23, 2014

A representative of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield replied the following day and asked for more information.

@byJenAMiller We’d like to help. Email SocialMedia@HorizonBlue.com w your ID#, contact info and issue.We’ll have someone call you to assist.

2014 Horizon BCBSNJ (@HorizonBCBSNJ) January 24, 2014

“After an email exchange, HorizonBCBSNJ called and figured out that a 2018glitch’ delayed the mailing of the February bills,” Miller told me in an email. “I ended up paying over the phone.”

Miller said she turned to Twitter first because the last time she had an issue with Horizon 2014 with her website login 2014 “it took 40 minutes and two calls (including the part where the first person I talked to gave me the wrong number to call).”

“So when I had this issue, I tried Twitter first.”

Thomas Vincz, a spokesman for Horizon, wrote that the insurer has been deluged with new enrollees. More than half of its enrollment from HealthCare.gov, which is handling sign-ups for New Jersey, came between Dec. 15 and Dec. 24. “This crunch required intensive work in subsequent days and weeks to address many back end issues with enrollment verification and payment processing,” he wrote.

Horizon extended its hours, tripled its customer service staff and delayed payment deadlines, and things are returning to normal, Vincz said. “But we’re maintaining higher levels of customer service staffing to better assist our members during this busy time.”

The slew of health insurance complaints has drawn the attention of the Chicago Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer

Companies across the country are feeling the heat. This from Michigan:

@mikecampau We’re sorry to hear your frustration & would like to help. Could you pls email your question to us at membersupport@bcbsm.com?

2014 BCBSM (@BCBSM) January 27, 2014

And this from Illinois:

@sds52 We know the hold time is lengthy and we’re sorry- is there something we can answer for you?

2014 BCBSIL (@BCBSIL) January 27, 2014

@faramir22 We know this has been frustrating- we see your call to customer service and that representative is working on it for you.

2014 BCBSIL (@BCBSIL) January 27, 2014

Among companies receiving the most scorn is Anthem Blue Cross. Earlier this week, we reported how the company had canceled the policies of some consumers in California, then switched them into new plans and deducted the premiums automatically from their bank accounts. Needless to say, consumers who chose other insurance options were none too pleased.

Way to blame the Affordable Care Act for the reason why you won’t pick up the phone during business hours, @AnthemPR_CA. Classy.

2014 kevinwchat (@kevinwchat) January 28, 2014

@sleepminded Please email me your name, birthdate, phone # & city of residence so we can assist. Darrel.Ng@wellpoint.com

2014 Anthem Blue Cross (@AnthemPR_CA) January 28, 2014

@Uma3055 Please email me your name, birthdate, phone # & city of residence so we can assist. Darrel.Ng@wellpoint.com

2014 Anthem Blue Cross (@AnthemPR_CA) January 27, 2014

The man who responds to those messages, spokesman Darrel Ng (@AnthemPR_CA), told me in an email that the insurer’s customers are interacting with companies in ways beyond the traditional phone call. “In response to this new demand, we created our customer service twitter account @AskAnthem several years ago to assist members. As consumers themselves started proactively contacting our other twitter accounts, we started directing these inquiries to customer service for assistance.” 


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