Capital BlueCross is a terrible company to buy insurance from

I want this on record so that maybe someone who is googling for info about Pennsylvania health insurance providers will find it and be saved a lot of grief.

For many years we got our insurance through Capital BlueCross, based in Harrisburg PA. It was an expensive plan with a brutally high deductible, but in the old days there weren’t a lot of options for individual insurance that covered things like maternity.

I paid my $1,000+/mo premium using an automated bill payment system set up by my bank. Once or twice payments didn’t go out on time, e.g. because the number of automatic payment recurrences ran out and I didn’t realize it. Did I get a notification saying hey, we didn’t get your payment, what gives? Nope. A phone call? Nope. The first we’d hear about it was a cancellation notice in the mail. They don’t beat around the bush at Capital BlueCross.

On at least one occasion, they hiked up the premium and I didn’t update the automatic payment in time. As a result, I was a few dollars short of the expected premium on my January payment. Did they tack this on to the next bill? Nope. Immediate cancellation notice. Over a few dollars.

Finally, at the end of 2013 they cancelled our coverage as a result of the Obamacare changes. Or so they claimed; honestly I’m pretty sure the plan we had met the Obamacare requirements. But whatever.

Once again, I failed to update the automatic payment in time (see a trend here?). As a result, one extra payment went out for January 2014. According to Capital BlueCross, it reached them on January 3rd.

Now, normal company, when they receive a payment for an account that is closed, sends it back. Even doctors offices, with whom I have endless trouble, have figured this out. It’s not rocket science: when you get a payment you weren’t supposed to get, you return it.

Not Capital BlueCross. So on February 13th, more than a month after they received the payment, I gave them a call. I was told the payment was being “held”, and it wouldn’t be processed for a while.

So I asked the representative what a “while” was. She told me that there was no way to know  when I’d get my $1100 back. I expressed shock that they couldn’t tell me when they’d get around to sending my money back. She got huffy with me. How dare I expect them to do what every other business does.

So I asked for a supervisor. After holding for 5 minutes, the same representative got back on and told me I could expect the money in two weeks.

It is absurd that this company, which will instantly send out a cancellation notice because a payment is a few dollars shy of the premium, thinks they can hold on to money that isn’t theirs, for an account they closed, indefinitely.

I have no idea what our experience with our new insurance will be. It’s too soon to tell. But Capital BlueCross has plans available in the new healthcare exchange, so I’m putting this out there in hopes it will help someone who is shopping around make an informed decision.

UPDATE, a year later: We switched to Geisinger, who we’ve had until moving to Tennessee this year. The difference between Capital BlueCross and Geisinger was night and day.

While Geisinger often seemed to be running a long call backlog, I will say that every interaction I had with their customer service was friendly and helpful. More importantly: on two occasions, due to some snafu or other, a payment to Geisinger failed. When this happened, they did what every other service provider except Capital BlueCross does: they added the missed payment to the next bill. Simple as that. No instantaneous cancellation notices.

Since we moved out of state, they’ve also been quite helpful in the cancellation process as well.

So, my conclusion after this experience is that Capital BlueCross isn’t just doing “what everybody else does” in the health insurance business. They are a uniquely customer hostile organization, and I would still advise anyone shopping for insurance in PA to steer clear of them.

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