Wednesday, November 20, 2013


AvMed letter raises
Customer ire and BP

I have been an AvMed Medicare Advantage customer for several years. Over all, it has been a satisfactory relationship - at least for me.

But this year, 2013, AvMed's communications with its clients has left more than a little to be desired.

For example AvMed sent me two documents in one envelop.

The outer document told me my plan was cancelled.

The inner document solicited my continued patronage with a new plan.

It seems AvMed cancelled one plan and substituted another.

One letter stating "Your plan [Plan ID] has been replaced with [Plan ID]. The only differences between the plans are listed below: " would have sufficed AND avoided confusion.

Remember. This is a Medicare plan, and that means a plan for geezers who (a) know how to read and (b) usually don't make assumptions.

The previous two-letter package pales in comparison to the letter I received yesterday in which I was informed that "Your enrollment in has been cancelled. This means you don't have coverage from AvMed Medicare."

The only date in the missive was the date the letter was printed.

Since AvMed delisted by Primary Care Physician (PCP), I looked at plans that listed my PCP. None of the plans favorably compared to AvMed. But since I already was looking at other vendors' plans, I decided to look at plans that omit my PCP from their list of providers.

I found such a plan and, surprise, it was better economically for me. AvMed was good, but Humana had a more wallet-friendly plan.

By the way, there is no such thing as a "$0 premium" plan. Medicare charges a Part B premium of about $104/month (sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on income). An advertised "$0 premium" plan means there is no additional premium paid to the vendor. On top of the $104 (plus or minus) from Medicare, the U.S. government kicks in much more, which is why there are so many vendors vying for a geezer's business.

OK, I know that on December 31, 2013 AvMed and I will part company, but to get a letter that states that I "don't have coverage" - and given the wording it has to mean I don't have coverage as of the letter's date - causes panic; the blood pressure soars and my normally calm disposition is rattled.

I call AvMed's Customer (dis)Service number and a Sweet Young Thing answers. I give her my name, rank, and serial number and finally she allows me to tell her why I am calling. She pulls up my file and assures me that I am covered through 12/31/13.

So what, young lady is your name if I need to refer back . . .

She gives me her first name and, when pressed, the last initial of her last name.

Not satisfactory. I can anticipate the response if I call back and say that "Miss [CS person's first name and last initial] told me … " I'll likely hear either (a) "We don't have anyone by that name, or (b) "We have a number of people with that name and it's impossible to know which one spoke with you."

I demanded to speak to a supervisor and was told all of her supervisors were busy. (How many supervisors does one person need?) She said she'd send an email to a specific supervisor and that person would get back to me.

A day later the supervisor did call - and explained that AvMed has a 24-hour window to return calls, something the first person failed to mention.

By now I'm thinking like a Risk management practitioner.

How can I give callers a CS person's ID without compromising their privacy?

Bingo: Employee ID. John110 or Judy10.

AvMed, the supervisor tells me, instructs its CS people to give their telephone extension. That may work IF the called notes the day/date and time of the call; I'm reasonably certain the extension is shared during the call-in hours.

Since AvMed and I are quits on the last day of the year, I suppose I shouldn't let this bother me, but it does.

AvMed generally is a good company, but of late it has had a serious problem with communication. I sent letters to two company executives, noting that I do not want a response - I think I've had enough blood pressure-boosting letters to last for awhile.

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