ACA-related complaints challenge payers

Insurers nationwide are dealing with waves of frazzled customers having trouble enrolling in or using new health insurance coverage pursuant to the Affordable Care Act: Call centers are swamped with time-consuming inquiries, billing is askew, and people who paid a premium and need care have no health insurance identification cards to show providers. Social media complaints are accumulating like snow in the Rockies.  

For example, Independence Blue Cross and Horizon Blue Cross of New Jersey netted 80 percent and 56 percent of new business customers, respectively, in the final weeks of December, according to Kaiser Health News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Now Independence faces a 30 percent spike in customer call volumes since last January with call waiting times of up to an hour.

"What has taken us by surprise is the length of the phone calls," Independence Senior Vice President Brian Lobley told KHN. "We have folks who are new to insurance, and they are not four-to five-minute calls. They are more of a 15- to 20-minute conversation."

Horizon has extended its service hours, tripled its customer service workforce and even postponed the deadline for enrollees to pay their first premiums in response to the influx of customer needs, spokesman Thomas Vincz told KHN.

In Nevada, state exchange leaders are adding 50 employees to service the site, RGJ reported. Some Nevadans who paid premiums through the state website haven't received ID cards. This also happened in Connecticut, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont, according to RGJ.

And Florida Blue is having the same problem. Approached by the state's Division of Consumer Services, which received 42 customer complaints, the insurer began triaging customer requests. Members with pressing healthcare issues, such as those who need immediate prescription refills or face imminent procedures, go to representatives who can work more quickly to solve their problems, News-Press noted.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Connecticut isn't cashing customer checks or charging credit cards due to enrollment system problems, as FierceHealthPayer reported. And the Oregon exchange's inability to determine subsidy entitlement may create additional customer service headaches for payers.  

For more:
- see the KHN and Inquirer article
- read the RJG article
- here's the News-Press article