Aetna Fires You From Your Job Without Your Company's Permission

Richard O’Connor, the Vice President of Marketing for Aetna, might want to rethink how his department handles its customer retention program in this economy, particularly when it comes to telling people that they’re still valued even though they’ve been let go. Chris received just such a letter today, and now the VP of his company’s HR department is trying to figure out why Aetna fired Chris.

Here’s what happened:

With unemployment continuing to skyrocket, who knows when your employer will unceremoniously pull the rug out from under you … or the whole company? When I got my mail at home today, there was a letter from Aetna, my employer’s group health carrier, that carried the scary subject line “How to replace your employer’s group health insurance.” Huh, what? That was enough to get me to keep reading.

It only got worse. “It can be stressful when you lose the health insurance coverage provided by your employer and have to find a new plan. Aetna understands and we want to help.”

Huh, WHAT!? Last I checked, I was still gainfully employed, and my 1,000-plus-employee employer was quite solvent, thank you very much. OK, so maybe it’s just a poorly written marketing letter. But wait: “You’ve been a valued Aetna group member and we’re looking forward to continuing to serve you as an Aetna Advantage individual plan member.”

Individual!? By now my blood pressure is approaching the stratosphere. Is this how my employer tells people they’re not needed anymore? Did my employer not pay their premiums? Is my employer planning mass layoffs and told the insurer before they told us? All these questions, and so few answers.

Step 1: I called the phone number on the letter. “Um, I’m trying to figure out why I got this letter, since I’m still covered by my employer as far as I know.” The person on the other end of the phone has apparently gotten this type of call before. Your caller is in denial; don’t talk to them about how they’re newly unemployed and in shock, etc. Instead, just politely say that you can’t talk about the caller’s insurance status, but *do* remember to try to sell them that individual insurance policy that they now really, really, really need. A couple of minutes of that, and I give up.

Step 2: I start going up my management tree at work. Nobody knows anything, and I think a couple more people just got nervous.

Step 3: Right to the VP of HR at my company. They shuffle it through the HR tree and finally assure me that neither I nor the company are in trouble, and my insurance is just fine, thank you. They’ll take it up with Aetna to try to find out what the blazes happened.

Step 4: Try to calm down.

So, the bottom line: Don’t let your insurance company scare you by making you think you’ve been fired or lost your coverage. Thank you, Richard C. O’Connor, Vice President Marketing — you ruined my Friday afternoon.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.