Kaiser Permanente Makes Cancelling Hard, Then Sends Me To Collections

Tim has been stuck in a 7-month limbo with his ex-health insurer Kaiser Permanente that he is trying to break it off with. First he was told to write in a fax that said “I [name here] no longer want health care coverage by KP.” Then it turned out they gave him the wrong fax number, which he found out after he got a bill for missing payment. He called back and got the right fax number, was promised a refund and prorated payment, and sent in all his info. Instead, he got back a letter from the collections department.

Tim writes:

On August 16th I faxed the additional information they requested in and on September 3rd received a letter stating my coverage had been canceled. However, the cancellation date was incorrect; the date was listed as August 16th [Tim needed it to reflect the first date he requested the cancellation on. Ed.]. So I again call member services to sort this out.
This time I speak to a gentleman who showed records of all my faxes and correspondence and said it would not be an issue; they will issue a refund and correct the cancellation date.

Fast forward to October 2010; I have not received my refund so I contact KP to inquire on its distribution. There a lady says she shows all of this in the computer, she will prompt the billing department to send. Again in November, no refund so they prompt the billing department again.

December 14th I contact them again as I have yet to receive my refund. A gentleman states that he shows a $16X.XX refund and I should give it two weeks. Now, January 23, 2011 I have yet to receive my refund and instead received a collections notice where KP has sent the prorated premium amount for 8/1/10-8/16/10 to collections. Not only should my coverage have been cancelled during this period, they never even sent me a bill for the period!

I can find no one at KP to resolve this issue; all I want is for them to honor their commitment to retroactively cancel my coverage as of July 2, 2010, refund my prorated July premium and resolve this collections issue.

I looked for information to pull together an EECB, but to no avail. Any help from you or your posters will be greatly appreciated!”

Hopefully someone will see this who knows what else I should do.

Thank you!

- Tim

We’ve reached out to Kaiser for comment and to see if they can help with Tim’s issue. Remember that even if the specific email addresses aren’t listed on Consumerist, you can always use these techniques to build your own EECB, or electronic email carpet bomb, which is when you send a well-written, polite, complaint letter to a batch of top-tier executives at a company.

Comments

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  1. muralivp says:

    I always nicely ask for a written cancellation notice with exact date printed. Most of the times I get it.

    • common_sense84 says:

      And it will be the times they screw up where you won’t get it. So this doesn’t really protect you from their mistakes.

    • Clearly says:

      This is a confusing and unclear article. It begins with a quote, “On August 16th I faxed this in”.
      What did you fax ? Be clear !!

      The article states that KP gave the wrong fax number, when was this ? If the fax number was wrong, then KP did not receive the original request to cancel and it was not effective. The policy will only be cancelled when KP receive a clearly worded request to cancel.

      Tim is asking for KP to, in his words, ‘retroactively’ cancel the policy. No insurance company will retroactively cancel, based it seems on a fax to a wrong number !; they will only cancel effective from the date that they are informed of the cancellation and sadly the article above is so confused that it is not at all clear when KP first knew of Tim’s request. It would appear, August 16th is the date they received a written cancellation request.

  2. macdude22 says:

    Send a fax, eessh. It might be anal but in situations where I need to send something in writing I usually spring for certified mail.

    • Thorzdad says:

      That would be nice, yes. But, sometimes it isn’t possible. For instance, several years ago, we switched health insurers from Consumer’s Life to Anthem, and CL required us to submit the cancellation notice via fax. No other method was offered.

    • cybrczch says:

      In the first paragraph, it says he was told “to write in a fax”. If that is their policy for cancellations, I can imagine that sending a certified letter would only get you a “We’re sorry, but you failed to submit your cancellation notice in the manner we require” response from them.

      • Jasen says:

        And it would not be legal.
        Many people have no access to a fax machine.

        What if the company “required” that you must submit your cancellation request in person at their Alaskan field office? Would you still be so willing to simply acquiesce to that?
        No, a certified letter requesting termination of an account, especially for an at-will service with no term limits, is all that’s legally required.

        Unfortunately, “legally” in this sense means that to enforce the law you’d end up having to sue them. If few or no people are willing to do this (or threaten it) they have little reason to change their policy.

  3. Darrone says:

    Should have gotten insurance with Kaiser Wilhelm. They cover accidental death, dismemberment, and any damage caused by German dictators.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      I believe Kaiser Wilhelm is out of business.

      • pythonspam says:

        I got my insurance through Kaiser Söze. The greatest trick they ever pulled was convincing potential new customers they they don’t exist, but I got grandfathered in.

  4. daveengh says:

    If Tim is in California, he should also file a complaint with the state Department of Corporations. If not, he should find out what state department regulates healthcare corporations and file a complaint with them.

    Long ago I worked for a Prudential unit (now Aetna) that provided personal healthcare insurance, and questions from the DoC always got prompt attention.

  5. Straspey says:

    Here’s how I have handled situations like this in the past:

    First of all – forget about CSR’s and EECB’s

    You need this:

    Kaiser Permanente Oakland Divisional Offices, Corporate Headquarters-Program Office in Oakland, California (ca)

    Name: Kaiser Permanente Oakland Divisional Offices, Corporate Headquarters-Program Office
    Street: 1 Kaiser Plaza
    Oakland, ca 94612-3610
    Phone: (510) 271-5910

    Call the number and ask to speak with the legal department. If they ask whom you are trying to reach, just tell them you need to speak to somebody with regard to a legal matter.

    The person who answers the phone will probably be a secretary – but if you’re lucky they might be a legal assistant or paralegal.

    Explain your situation toi them and tell them that you have now reached the point where – considering the fact that you have exhausted all other avenues of trying to resolve this through normal channels – you are now considering turning the matter over to your attorney, and you need to know who should he/she contact.

    This will get their attention and you will probably get the issue resolved in a reasonable amount of time. It worked for me when we were erroneously sent to collections – and in our case we even were paid a small settlement.

    • stevied says:

      Yep, somebody asking for inhouse legal counsel has a real high ass-pucker factor.

      • Straspey says:

        I really don’t know what you mean by “ass-pucker factor” –

        But I can tell you that the company that erroneously sent my wife to collections for no good reason ended up paying her fifteen hundred bucks, putting an immediate stop to all collections activities against her – as well as ensuring that her credit history was not affected in any way.

        We got the classic run-around of speaking with many friendly CSR’s, “supervisors”, etc – all for naught. But the second I said the words “my attorney…” we suddenly found a few receptive ears.

    • ryder02191 says:

      That’s completely inane. Upwards of 99.9% of companies will do absolutely nothing but stonewall your once you mention legal consideration, and rightfully so; you’ll get a contact name if you’re lucky, but nothing more. It’s flat out stupid to bring up legal action unless you’re actually serious, and since this is Consumerist, nobody is ever serious about anything more productive than whining and complaining. You have far more to lose than they do.

      • mythago says:

        Wow. Not everybody is you, friend.

        The advice is actually quite good. Note that he’s not calling and saying “I’m gonna sue you”, which is a real amateur play; it’s simply calling and politely asking who your lawyer should contact.

      • Jasen says:

        No, it works.
        There have been so many occasions over the years where calling and sending polite letters to companies had no response and no resolution. Then when I got fed up and the next letter I sent was rather stern and mentioned legal ramifications, I had immediate satisfaction. This seems to be the only thing some of these companies give a shit about.
        These days, if I have to write a company about anything important, I’m seriously tempted to simply jump straight to the stern legal threat letter.

  6. pop top says:

    Holy shit. More reaching out for comments? I like this.

  7. Mike says:

    I just want to say that I really want single payer health care.

    Yeah, yeah, I know, Glenn Beck’s chalkboard thinks I am a communist and Hannity wants to know why I hate America. Whatever.

    • varro says:

      +1, only Glenn Beck’s chalkboard says I’m a Nazi.

    • cspschofield says:

      I would be a lot more sympathetic to the idea of a National Health Service (the other name for Single Payer) if the people most like us (Canada, England, the rest of Great Britain) hadn’t tried to make it work and failed.

      The cartoonist Giles (damn near a British institution from WWII until his death in the 1990’s) was a committed old line Socialist from way back …. and as early as the 1950’s was drawing cartoons pointing out the NHS’s multitude of failings. It’s been tried by our close cousins, and it does not work.

      Or, to put it another way, if you think it’s bad now, wait until the insurance weenies and the people in government to whom you appeal for help WITH the insurance weenies are all working in the same office.

      • AnthonyC says:

        I’d like to point out that people in England and Canada pay half as much as we do for insurance, and are healthier by pretty much all objective measures.

        Also, for elective care and/or care not covered by national health services, private insurance is still available for those who want to buy it, and of course anyone is free to pay out of pocket for additional procedures as well. So no choice is lost, and a lot of money is saved.

      • Jean Naimard says:

        Mandatory single-payer/government health-insurance works so wonderfully well in Canada that even the most rabid right-wingnut politician wannabees totally avoid even thinking about changing the system, because it has repeatedly been proven to be political suicide.

    • unsmith says:

      +2, only because I have to counteract Glenn Beck AND his ego.

  8. nakkypoo says:

    “Kaiser Permanente Makes Cancelling Hard, Then Sends Me To Collections”

    Kaiser did not make cancelling hard. “Tim” successfully canceled. And Tim’s account was not sent to a collection agency, it was referred to Kaiser’s collections department. An accurate headline would be “Kaiser Makes Getting a Refund Hard, Then Asks Me To Pay”

    Other than the refund, Tim can ignore Kaiser’s payment demands. Kaiser cannot legally do anything. They will never put it to a collection agency or have a negative mark put on his credit report.

    • Ilovegnomes says:

      I’ve had the unfortunate experience of dealing with Kaiser’s billing department. We didn’t have their insurance but their ER was the closest when my husband had a medical emergency. We thought we had squared away all of the bills and then we started getting letters stating that we owed money and that they were sending us to collections. Let me tell you, when you are in the middle of trying to purchase a home, getting a letter like that will get your undies in a twist. They don’t tell you in their letter that collections is just a Kaiser department. The letter that we received made it sound like they were about to ruin our credit. The billing person, that we were supposed to escalate this to, was in the middle of a 2 week vacation when all of this was going on and slow to respond, even when she returned. It was only then that she informed us what that letter really meant and then cleared it up. I can sure understand how people who get a collection letter, which is creatively worded, would also freak out.

      • nakkypoo says:

        The letters are scary. I owed them some money, but since I administered my company’s Kaiser coverage, so I knew they wouldn’t do anything.

        Most people don’t know that Kaiser has to follow different rules than most hospitals and insurance carriers.

        Eventually they wrote me off and effectively said don’t go to one of their hospitals again unless I’m ready to pay the $700 I owe them. But that’s not even true, I could go and not give them a name (yes, Kaiser has some really strange rules where you can actually show up and not give a name and they still have to treat you)

        • Youngfrankenstein says:

          Are you saying you owed them $700 and refused to pay? Or was it a mistake they made and you didn’t owe?

          • nakkypoo says:

            It’s much closer to the first. The $700 bill is valid but they were trying to collect against me and not my company. Either way it would have been my money paying them, but it needed to be paid by my company and not myself. Getting them to bill the company was exceedingly difficult. They did eventually get paid (by me when I canceled the plan for unrelated reasons)

  9. Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

    I am confused- On August 16th he faxed in his letter for cancelling? And they cancelled it August 16th? The end of the letter says he wants it cancelled back to July 2nd– was the letter faxed then, or August 16th? If it wasn’t sent until August, then there is no issue here.

    Please clarify if I’m losing my mind and reading this wrong, which is a high possiblity.

    • Rebecca K-S says:

      I feel like the beginning of the quote is not actually the beginning of Tim’s story.

      • Conformist138 says:

        Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.

        Hey consumerist, it’s not gonna kill you to post ENTIRE emails and narratives. It gets really annoying when half the stories feature totally edited out information.

  10. Andy says:

    I do some consulting work for KP, their email address format is as follows:

    FirstName.LastName@kp.org

    good luck!

  11. Woodside Park Bob says:

    Here’s a different kind of Kaiser Permanente story: We just received a check in the mail from them refunding a co-payment we had made. It was a nice surprise. We had no idea that we had been charged a co-payment we didn’t owe and hadn’t requested a refund.

  12. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Humana did the same. I wrote a very concise letter to the collection agency and mentioned that any attempt to collect this disputed debt, including a posting on my credit report would be met with legal action. I demanded a written response. In this case there were ALSO incorrectly posted payments (one of the reasons we canceled) and I included copies of the canceled checks.

    I never heard another word from them, so I got half of what I was looking for.

  13. VicMatson says:

    Why not use snail mail with receipt? I would of had a notary stamp it too.

  14. coffeeculture says:

    Kaiser’s usually pretty good too…they have a good “in-house” HMO model for healthcare. Sounds like a bad billing experience by the OP.

  15. Jane_Gage says:

    Aetna was great to deal with cancelling. They congratulated me on my new teaching job, asked me to send an email, and even though I was cancelling it late on the same day it was scheduled to debit they reversed it immediately.

  16. golddog says:

    First thing to realize for Kaiser is that each state is a separate corporation. Kaiser of California is different from Kaiser of Colorado, etc. So there may be one figurehead person who collectively heads the KP “Groups”, but you’ll get more traction staying within the infrastructure of your state’s group.

    Next, is this an individual plan, small business plan, or large business plan? Laws vary by state on your protection, and the backdating thing. If this was through your employer, they can go in and retroactively cancel coverage, and advocate a bit for you, but since you’re doing the legwork I’m gonna assume you’re on the individual plan.

    I’m also gonna go out on a limb and guess California? Whichever state, you can call your state’s insurance commissioner and file a complaint. Compose a succinct letter to the collection people, get ready to spend that refund on monitoring your credit report, and perhaps sue in small claims court if the point or the amount are worth it to you.

  17. Jeff-er-ee says:

    “…you can always use these techniques to build your own EECB, or electronic email carpet bomb…”

    I thought it was “Executive Email Carpet Bomb”, although I guess it is important to distinguish between electronic email and the physical variety.

    Wait…no…

  18. Cetan says:

    “electronic email carpet bomb”?

    Electronic electronic-mail carpet bomb? :P

    (I think it should be Executive email carpet bomb)

  19. Jaynor says:

    Based on the Premium cost I’m guessing this is a Medicare Advantage HMO. If that’s the case there are some Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (which is abbreviated CMS instead of CMMS for some reason) cancelation rules to follow. Basically it has to be a dated correspondence that contains Tim’s SSN that states that he wants to cancel is Senior Advantage HMO effective XX/XX/XXXX date.

    These generally can’t be retroactive… which is probably the pickle Kaiser is finding themselves in in trying to get him off their plan (they can’t take him off without CMS approval or a three month deliquency on payment). A lot of conjecture but if I’m right about the plan they’re probably waiting for CMS to approve the retroactive adjustment of coverage

  20. veg-o-matic says:

    Well, it’s not called Kaiser Permanente for nothing, then.

  21. prismatist says:

    Permanente, all right.

  22. vgolla says:

    Tim: I work for Kaiser Permanente and I would be happy to talk to you about how to address this topic. I am chagrined that you had this experience. You can validate that I am “me” through my LinkedIn account:
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/vincegolla

    Please email me through our News Center’s email ID – newscenter@kp.org – or follow me on Twitter and we can DM to start with if you prefer: @vincegolla

    FYI, our Member Services organization has a presence on Twitter: @kpmemberservice.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  23. elliemae says:

    I had a patient who moved out of state from California – she had a Kaiser Medicare managed care plan. After 3 letters and multiple telephone calls, they still wouldn’t disenroll her. It took a call to Medicare from her attorney to get the job done. During that 4 month period, she wasn’t able to go to the doctor or even make an appointment.

  24. elliemae says:

    I had a patient who moved out of state from California – she had a Kaiser Medicare managed care plan. After 3 letters and multiple telephone calls, they still wouldn’t disenroll her. It took a call to Medicare from her attorney to get the job done. During that 4 month period, she wasn’t able to go to the doctor or even make an appointment.