RX problems and poor customer service
OMAHA, NEBRASKA -- About a week into January of 2007, I received a letter from United Health Care that they would no longer cover long-term medicines that were bought at any pharmacy other than Medco by Mail. This letter included instructions on how to make purchases from that company. I gave the fax number of Medco, along with my relevant insurance information, to my doctor's office and asked them to send my wife's prescriptions.
A week later we received the prescriptions, but there were problems. First, one of the medicines was incorrect. My wife needs Metformin Extended Release, but she received plain Metformin. Secondly, the amounts on two of the prescriptions was incorrect. Rather than a 90-day supply, we were sent 90 pills. On one of the drugs this would last 45 days, on another of them it would only last 15 days.
The customer service representative of Medco was supremely unhelpful, claiming that they filled exactly what the prescriptions called for, and disavowed any responsibility to make things right. My doctor's office has agreed to cover the cost of the incorrect prescription, but if they had not stepped forward I would have been obliged to pay for medicines which we could not use.
I have occasionally experienced similar situations with Walgreens, but have never had to accept the wrong medicines, nor incorrect amounts. They always corrected mistakes on the spot.
To make matters worse, there seems to be no middle ground when it comes to daytime telephone calls from Medco. They will either call about every inconsequential step of filling the prescription, or they will not call at all. "Only call if I am needed to authorize something" does not seem to be an option. As a 3rd-shift worker, I find this completely unacceptable.
The company I work for has taken away all choice of medical coverage with the exception of United Health Care (or "none," which is of course not a viable option in today's world). And UHC has taken away all choice of pharmacy other than Medco. When you add to this the fact that the pharmacy from which I am being forced to buy pills is costing more than I was paying before, this amounts to yet another effective pay cut for me, and very likely many other employees. This is certainly not what I expected after "upgrading" to a UHC policy with premiums more than twice the levels of the plan I previously had.
Early in April I had to re-order medicines from Medco. When they arrived I learned that two of them had been replaced with generics without my permission. The accompanying letter stated that the change had been authorized by my wife's doctor.
The doctor's office told a different story. They remembered the call from Medco. The office staff spoke to the Medco caller, and deferred the decision to the patient (my wife).
No one from Medco ever spoke to my wife about this, nor to her doctor, nor to me. If they had, then they would have learned that my wife has had serious side-effects from past attempts to substitute another medicine for that which was prescribed.
Once again resolution of the problem proved to be difficult. Medco claimed that they could only replace one prescription at a time. pending payment, blaming the cost of the pills for this decision. After much debate and negotiation, my wife decided, against my advice, to try the generic brands, on the condition that they would be replaced should any problems ensue.
I remember when this company offered multiple choices for health care coverage. It was part of the cafeteria plan which was touted as an excellent employee benefit at the time. I also remember that each different plan carried a different level of employee contribution. When I was forced to choose between United Health Care or no group health coverage at all, my personal contribution to health insurance premiums increased dramatically as level of service decreased reciprocally, although the company claims that lower costs for employees was the reason for the change. Perhaps the company is saving money, but with my costs increasing fourfold, I hope to be forgiven if I am skeptical that this change in employee benefits was in the best interest of the employees.
In any case, lower costs mean nothing if the level of service is worth nothing. If Medco cannot be trusted to gain proper authorization before making changes to prescriptions, then they cannot be trusted to fill prescriptions at all. Lack of competition - and regulation - has made these providers lax and uncaring. Because we cannot take our business elsewhere, Medco feels no pressure to improve customer service.