EECB Gets Kaiser Permanente's Attention, Reader's $900 Refund

Reader Laura had Kaiser Permanente health insurance through her employer. When she lost her job, she paid Kaiser directly for COBRA coverage. She stuck with the company for her employer-subsidized health insurance when she started a new job earlier this year, and was under the impression that the COBRA plan would end when her new coverage began. It didn’t.

When she couldn’t convince anyone in first-line customer service that she really, really didn’t mean to have two separate insurance plans simultaneously, she did some research and launched an executive e-mail carpet bomb at the company, bringing the bureaucratic stupidity to the attention of someone with actual power.

Last summer, I lost my job and elected to receive COBRA coverage through Kaiser Permanente, as they had been my health insurance provider through my employer and I had been pleased with the quality of health care and service I had received. After a few months, however, I decided to save money by switching to a cheaper Kaiser plan. I signed up for this plan online and my coverage was switched quickly and without any issues.

In January (thank you sweet baby Jesus), I started a new full-time job and elected to receive insurance from Kaiser out of several health insurance options offered by my new employer. Based on my previous experience, I thought that Kaiser would simply change my coverage to the employer-sponsored plan and cancel the out-of-pocket plan. Unfortunately, this time, Kaiser continued to bill me – for three months – for the out-of pocket plan while I was also having money deducted from my paycheck each month for my employer-sponsored plan. I called Kaiser’s Member Services hotline and got the runaround from countless CSRs until one eventually told me that my out-of-pocket plan had not been cancelled because I had not faxed a letter to Kaiser specifically instructing them to do so. Naturally, the CSR also told me that my numerous phone calls did not suffice as evidence that I wanted to cancel my plan, nor could I send an email or cancel online, but that my cancellation could only be accepted via fax. Fax, for God’s sake. This from a company where I can email my doctor, view my test results, schedule appointments, and, of course, purchase additional coverage all from their website.

All told I had close to $900 in charges from Kaiser for a plan I didn’t want, on top of what I was already paying for my employer-sponsored plan. That is a lot of money to most people, but to someone coming out of nearly six months of unemployment, it was enough to send me into a spiral of panic and rage.

Desperate, I decided to launch an EECB to Kaiser Mid-Atlantic’s executives based on the tips I learned on Consumerist. I sent emails explaining my situation to several of Kaiser’s top executives, including Dr. Robert Pearl, President and CEO of Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group. Within minutes, Dr. Pearl emailed me back a brief note saying that he was passing my letter along to the appropriate individuals. Less than 24 hours later, I received a phone call from a Kaiser Mid-Atlantic Vice President, who apologized to me personally and assured me that all outstanding charges on my account would be removed. He then gave me his direct line and told me to call him if everything had not been taken care of within two weeks. Less than a week later, all the charges had been removed, the out-of-pocket plan had been cancelled, and moreover, I received an additional apologetic letter in the mail from someone in Kaiser Mid-Atlantic’s communications department.
Although I wish I hadn’t had to bother Kaiser’s top executives to get what I needed, I am nonetheless very pleased with the level of customer service I received once I brought the issue to their attention. It was very heartening to receive such a quick and thorough response from a company’s leadership, and they really went above and beyond to make me feel like a valued customer. This experience has made a loyal Kaiser member out of me. And of course, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, Consumerist, for teaching me how to launch an effective EECB, without which I would still be $900 in the hole.