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As things go in the abysmal American healthcare system, insurance company sponsored mail order pharmacies are a good deal, especially for those of us with chronic illnesses who require maintenance meds.

So, rather than paying the full copay per prescription each month at the local pharmacy, I order online from CIGNA's Tel-Drug pharmacy, receive  three month's worth of meds by mail, for which I have to pay only two month's worth of copays. If you don't do the intertubes, you can still order using your telephone keypad to enter the Rx numbers.

At least, that's how it's supposed to work.

CIGNA recently upgraded Tel-Drug's pharmacy software, and things went to shit. Seems they didn't adequately test the telephone reorder part of the system, which currently doesn't work. So, folk trying to use their phone to place automated refill orders now have to talk to a customer service rep.

Consequently, Tel-Drug's call center is so overwhelmed that most of the time, you get a recording that says they're "experiencing larger-than-normal call volume" (Duh!) and that due to this volume, you must call back later, or you can place / track your order online. Should you be lucky enough to get into the call queue, wait time is ridiculous - I waited 24 minutes after 10 PM EDT last night before I finally got to a rep to straighten out their error in a order I had placed online.

If you do order online and something gets bolluxed up, you can either call (Good luck!), or send a email with one of those "Contact Us" forms. My order from eight days ago was being held up for "approval" for a sharps container that Tell-Drug provides free to folk with injectable meds, so I had initially sent an email. After the message was sent, I was presented a page that said if I needed my order ASAP, I should ask my doctor (he's a 45 minute drive away) to give me an Rx for one month's worth of my drugs.

Gee, thanks ! I live on a very limited disability income, and set aside money each month to be able to pay for my quarterly order. I cannot afford to pay the $140 in co-pays for just one month's supply.

Finally, after I got through last night and got the erroneous hold removed, they processed the order and hit my debit card for $280.

Today, I came back from the grocery store to a voicemail from Tel-Drug, to please call them to schedule shipment. I was nearly in tears with frustration. So, I'll stay up late again tonight, after 10 PM, in the hope that I can get through in 20 minutes or so, to "schedule delivery" for the same meds they've been sending by the same carrier to the same address for three years.

This is healthcare in the richest country on earth ...


I am very, very grateful for what coverage I do have. I cannot imagine what it's like for the uninsured.

Crossposted at Street Prophets

Originally posted to The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Apr 12, 2007 at 05:26 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for a Single Payer System (14+ / 0-)

    "When reality bites, bite back!" ~ The Werewolf Prophet, resident Looped-Garou of Prophecy Street

    by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Apr 12, 2007 at 05:25:00 PM PDT

    •  That's horrible!!! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
    •  HealthCARE, my royal Cosmic arse-- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brillig, david78209

      more like


      then again, who am I to talk--I have to deal with Aetna...just this AM I showed up for my regular yearly opthalmological exam (borderline Type II diabeatnik) & was told that unless I had a referral I'd be charged full price--luckily the clinic is just down the hall from the Infernal Medicine bunker offices where my PCP awaits the Red Army holds court, & through the magic of modern computers I returned with said referral in 10 it only bumped me an extra 90 minutes back in the queue...

      When I presented the permission slip referral I did announce to all & sundry, All this horsecrap is gonna go away once we get single payer!

      May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

      by Uncle Cosmo on Thu Apr 12, 2007 at 05:42:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, thanks for the encouragement! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brillig, Expat Briton, david78209

    My ins. provider recently mandated that we must use the online prescription service. They will not pay anything at all for routine/regular meds at a local pharmacy. Not just co-pay ---- nothing at all. So I was dragged reluctantly into this process.

    My first order has arrived correctly, and in a timely fashion. It includes the information that I may not place my next order until XX/XX/07. And I should allow 7 - 10 days for delivery after placing an order.

    Immediately I see a potential problem. I will be leaving town for three weeks exactly 7 days after XX/XX/07. It is highly unlikely I can expect my meds before I leave. It surely is not a good idea for it to be sitting in the mailbox and hope the cat-sitter brings it in while I'm gone. Besides, I will not have enough meds to see me through the three week absence. So, I will have to call them and discuss this unique situation and try to arrange some "exception" in the process.

    I was not looking forward to this necessity. You have certainly encouraged that feeling of trepidation.

    Revolutionary words start revolutions

    by Catte Nappe on Thu Apr 12, 2007 at 05:35:20 PM PDT

  •  Proof that business isn't hassle free. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brillig, Expat Briton, david78209

    Not that government is necessarily better.  Colorado switched to a new computerized benefits system and the mayhem proceeds apace many months later, notwithstanding court orders attempting to prevent crisis situations.

    This kind of problem isn't limited to benefits and insurance either.  

    The new F-22 fighter jet had a navigation system that automatically crapped out whenever it crossed the international date line, causing some sort of causality error that hung up the system.  The blue screen of death takes on a quite literal meaning at 30,000 feet and several times the speed of sound over an ocean hundreds of miles from the nearest rock.

    My brother actually is in the quality control department of a medical software firm.  But, his work is never done and the product inevitable ships with at least some bugs, one hopes not criticall ones.

    At the very least, responsible companies and governments should have a backup plan if mission critical new software falls though in the early stages.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

    by ohwilleke on Thu Apr 12, 2007 at 05:38:24 PM PDT

    •  I was a programmer & systems analyst ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brillig, Expat Briton, david78209

      ... my entire working career of 25 years. There is no excuse for a failure on this grand a scale for a mission critical system, especially one concerning people's health.

      I have HIV and if I miss even a single dose of meds due to some delivery fuck up on the part of the pharmacy, my drugs may fail which at this point would most likely mean death for me.

      Sure, there have been errors in code I've written and systems I've overseen deplyment of, but nothing like Tel-Drug's screaming failure of an initial entry point of data into the system.

      "When reality bites, bite back!" ~ The Werewolf Prophet, resident Looped-Garou of Prophecy Street

      by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Apr 12, 2007 at 05:49:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tel Drug (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brillig, Expat Briton, david78209

    My employer switched from Cigna to another mail order prescription service a couple of years ago.
    My wife has to deal with one of those telephone ordering systems where you have the speak rather than use the number pad.  I thought that was bad, but nothing like what Wolfie has had to deal with.

    "You cannot legislate people's hearts." Lucille Brooks

    by JaketheSnake on Thu Apr 12, 2007 at 05:47:51 PM PDT

  •  CIGNA is a total piece of shit (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brillig, david78209

    don't get me started about the time(s) they have insisted Jan 1, that my husband is no longer on their plan since it's a new year.  I spend around 4 hours to get a human being on the phone who says everything is clarified, then go back to the poor pharmacist who says no the insurance was rejected.  

    And yes I know, we are fortunate to insurance at all, but if they never really pay for anything is it still safe to call us covered??

  •  Everybody, send this diary to your congressman! (0+ / 0-)

    And senators.

    And any presidential candidate whom you're considering supporting.  Ask them what they'd do to keep this kind of hassle from happening if they got to reform the health care system.

    We're all pretty crazy some way or other; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is just a setting on the dryer.

    by david78209 on Thu Apr 12, 2007 at 06:39:17 PM PDT

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