Do you ever wonder why rare disease parents spend so much time on the phone?

Posted Monday February 01, 2016 by Melissa

Do you ever wonder why rare disease parents spend so much time on the phone?

I’ve recently had several billing problems with my son’s specialty pharmacy. This is not uncommon in rare or chronic diseases. Pharmacy problems. Insurance problems. Phone calls. Documentation. Repeat phone calls. Sometimes I feel like I spend all day on the phone or computer for my son (on some days,  I actually do). To give an insight to those who don’t live in this world, and in an effort to provide an example of companies offering poor customer service (especially in the case of a drug costing $35,000/month), here is a transcript of my morning. Note that this is the fourth call this month (each previous call lasted over an hour, on and off hold and was not dissimilar from this one).

I dial Accredo. Go through several prompts to attempt to contact the billing department.

Do you ever wonder why rare disease parents spend so much time on the phone?ON HOLD for 8 minutes [Not too bad considering my last call started with 20 minutes on hold]

This is XXX in billing. How can I help you?

[Since I’ve already spent 3 hours this month on this exact issue, every time, detailing it (2 minutes), sitting on hold (generally 10-20 minutes), getting transferred, explaining the issue again (2 minutes), sitting on hold (10-20 minutes), sometimes getting cut off and others being told a different thing each time, I thought I’d try to go a little higher up the food chain. All I’m trying to do is get them to bill my insurance for a month’s worth of medication that I received over 3 weeks ago. Once, they’ve told me it would be billed immediately. Another time, they said they didn’t have the right insurance information in the system. Another time, they said it had been billed and was denied. It goes ON and ON. You’d think they want the money….]

Can I speak with a billing manager please?

I’m in billing.

Can I speak with a billing manager please?

I’m in billing. I can help you the same way as a billing manager.

We’ve tried to resolve this problem several times, with phone calls each lasting an hour or more, so I need to speak with someone who can resolve it and not have to repeat myself and be transferred.

Okay, let me transfer you.

ON HOLD for 2 minutes

Thank you for calling Accredo. Are you a new patient, existing patient, or provider? Please press 1 for new patient, press 2 for existing patient, press 3 for provider.

I press 2.

What is the phone number including area code associated with this account?

XXX

Please hold for our next available patient care advocate.

ON HOLD for 5 minutes

Thank you for calling Accredo. This is XXX in billing. How can I help you?

Can I speak with a billing manager please?

I’m in billing.

Can I speak with a billing manager please? We’ve had a repeated problem so I need to speak with someone who can resolve it and not have to repeat myself and be transferred.

Okay, let me transfer you.

ON HOLD for 2 minutes

Thank you for calling Accredo. Are you a new patient, existing patient, or provider? Please press 1 for new patient, press 2 for existing patient, press 3 for provider.

I press 2.

What is the phone number including area code associated with this account?

XXX

We’re sorry, your order cannot be completed through our automatic refill service. Please hold for our next available patient care advocate.

ON HOLD for 2 minutes

Hi, this is XXX in billing. How can I help you?

Can I speak with a billing manager please?

Okay, let me transfer you.

ON HOLD for 15 minutes

Hi. This is XXX and I can try to help you. Can I get some information from you so I can send information over to them when I reach someone?

Sure.

Do you have an account with us?

Yes.

Is this for you, your husband?

My son.

Can I have his last name, please?

Hogan

Can I have his first name, please?

Case

Can I have his date of birth, please?

XXX

Please verify your zip code?

XXX

Can you please wait a moment while I get the billing department on the line?

I’ve spoken to several people today in the billing department. What I need is a manager who can resolve this issue.

Well, I need to get them on the line first to get a manager. What is your name?

Melissa Hogan

ON HOLD for 5 minutes

Ms Hogan, I’m just checking back. I’m waiting for a rep to pick up so I can get a manager for you.

Thank you.

Do you still want to hold or can I give you a number that you can call back?

I’ve been redirected to the same prompts several times already this morning and spent 40 minutes on this call with no resolution, how else do I resolve this? Do you have a direct number of anyone I can reach?

No. I just have a number for billing.

Is it XXX? If so, I already have that number.

I just have the same number you have for billing.

I spoke last week to a lady named XXX who is a resolution team lead, can you connect me to her?

Let me find her on the phone list. [ON HOLD 1 minute] Okay, yes, she is a manager. Let me try to connect you. [This lady was actually very nice, it’s not her fault, so although I want to scream at this point, I control myself]

ON HOLD for 1 minute

Ms. Hogan, she is not answering, but let me try the other line for a supervisor. Can you hold please?

Minute 42:37 on this call

ON HOLD for 5 minutes

Ms. Hogan, I apologize. I’m still waiting for a supervisor. Do you want to continue to hold?

I have no choice. This happens every time I call. I’m 48 minutes invested now. Sure.

Okay, I’ll keep trying XXX as well.

ON HOLD for 9 minutes

Hello, how can I help you? [super quiet, I can barely hear it]

I can barely hear you. Is there a way to turn up the volume?

            No. dsjfkbesjggael no volume.

Okay, I may need you to repeat things. Are you a billing manager?

No. dsgseighwiogw;iog. Management.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Are you a billing manager?

No, my name is Shae. I am a member of management.

[I explain the entire debacle, holding back the choice words floating in my head.]

I have in the records that a request was submitted last week for it to be billed. I can reach out to the representative who submitted to the request and check on the status.

Do you not want the money for the $35,000 worth of medication sitting in my fridge? You can “reach out to the representative?” When will this be billed, seeing as how I’ve had this medication for 3 weeks?

I don’t know what happened before last week. I have in the records that a request was submitted last week for it to be billed. All I can do is reach out to the representative who submitted to the request and check on the status.

And how will I know when this has been billed? My son’s medication bills out at almost $400,000 per year and you can bet your granny I’m not going to order any more until things with you get resolved, if ever…. [I continue my rant, it feels good by this point to finally have a live person who says something other than “I’m in billing,” even if I can barely hear her.]

I will reach out and see what is going on. Let me confirm the information I have. Is your insurance XXX?

Yes.

I have your phone number as XXX. Is that where I can reach you?

Yes.

I will look into this. Is there anything else I can help you with?

No. [Hell to the freaking no.]

Thank you for calling Accredo.

You’re welcome.

Minute 58:59 [Whew, I made it out before an hour!!! But by past experience, this will not be the last call.]

———-

If you’ve ever wondered what parents of children with rare or chronic illnesses do all day, or why they often don’t have time for coffee, or can’t put their typical children in time-consuming sports and other activities, remember this post.

We spend a ton of time on the phone about our child’s health care.

And then we blog about it.

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