I’ve always had a thing about rule-breakers and general unfairness. I hate line-cutters. I hate when people don’t offer to move over in a crowded theater. I HATE when you do the right thing, but someone else doesn’t and you suffer for it.
Let me share some recent consumer disasters I’ve encountered.
We have a credit card with a certain unscrupulous creditor. I won’t name them for my own identity protection, but I feel confident that it could happen with any of the major (majorly failing) banks, so it’s not that important. They’re interchangable.
So here’s what happened. We have a very small minimum payment – like $20 or something. I paid $500 in mid Feb and then paid another $200 on Mar. 6. Turns out both payments counted for Feb. because the billing cycle is only from the 8th to the 28th of the month. Apparently, the 29th through the 7th is no-man’s land, and those payments count for the previous month. SO, then I didn’t pay again until the first week of Apr. Guess what? The March payment was never counted for the March due date, so we got slammed with a late fee and our rate DOUBLED!
I called to see what happended and the customer service person said, “I can see what your intention was, but it doesn’t matter. You can’t pay early. They won’t lower your rate and you’ll have to appeal the late fees.” Not only was she unhelpful, she was condescending, “well, that’s why you get statements.”
Let me tell you that nowhere on the statement does it say “if you pay during the month your payment is due, but prior to our arbitrary cycle date, you will be severly punished by us ruining your credit.”
So, I wrote a professional but mean letter to said useless bank and am awaiting a response. Albeit, with little hope.
Here’s the 2nd example. My husband changed jobs. His last day with one job was a Friday and his first day with the new job was the following Monday. These dates fell at the end of March, so his final paycheck came in April, where we saw that they had deducted the cost of his medical insurance. So, on April 6th, he was no longer employed by the company, but we had paid for one more month of medical care.
I needed to go to the doctor. I’d been coughing and coughing for five weeks. In a terrible culmination of fate, my regular doctor’s office was closed due to flooding, so I planned to go to Urgent Care. Before I left the house, I called the insurance. I said, “are we covered?” They said, “says here you are, but check with your HR dept. because they could back date the term.” Meaning, they could send a letter to the insurance company on April 6th that says, “this person is no longer covered as of March 31st”.
So I called the HR dept. They said, “says here you’re covered. We submitted a notice to the insurance saying your term ends April 30th. Here’s the address for an in-network Urgent Care.”
Bases covered, right? WRONG.
So I go to Urgent Care, wait 4 hours to see a Physician’s Assistant who gives me over-the-counter cough medicine. I’m not even going to go into that experience, which surely makes the list of injustices.
Fast forward a couple weeks and I get a bill saying the insurance refused payment because I wasn’t covered at the time of service. You could see that one coming, right? So could I.
So I start my phone calls again – “what’s up, insurance?” They say, “it says here that your insurance ended on March 31st.” Next I call HR, “what’s up, HR?” They say, “it says in the notes that you were told the benefits ended on March 30th”. Hmm, that’s funny, there are 31 days in March. So I say, “why would I go to the doctor if that’s what I was told?” And the very nice guy says, “you want me to put in a case-number and have the higher-ups listen to the conversation?” Hell Yes I Do.
So they listen. And I get a call today saying, “You were right. We told you the wrong thing. We told you you were covered and you weren’t. It was our mistake. I’ve very sorry. BUT, I escalated it and asked for an exception and they said no. They said your only option was COBRA.
Anyone out there familiar with COBRA? Well, let me tell you, it’s highway robbery. My bill for Urgent Care is $215. If we were to get COBRA for the employee plus one for ONE MONTH it would cost $998.02.
Time for more letter-writing.
I could probably submit the bill to the new insurance, because I’m pretty sure we were covered on day one, but that’s really not the point at all.
What if I had made that Physician’s Assistant actually see what was wrong with me? Ordered a chest x-ray that I surely needed or something else? Then that bill would be in the thousands!
I hate these people and their lack of responsiblity, service, general lack of regard for their customers. I hate them.
How’s that for a rant?!
We’re not helpless, though. I truly believe that. I know not everyone has the time for letter campaigns, frankly, neither do I. But if it’s a case of stamina – who will fight longer? I don’t plan to lose that fight.
Here’s something everyone can do to stop credit card companies from issuing unfair rate hikes, fees and loopholes to consumers who pay their bills. Call the Consumers Union Action Line at 800-944-6762. By putting in your zip code, they’ll connect you to your Sentor’s office, so that you can voice your support of the Credit Card Reform Bill, S. 414. The Sentate is bitterly divided on this bill, and the only people suffering are the credit card holders.
For more info on the Credit Card Reform Bill, and what you can do to stop unfair creditors from preying on consumers, go to creditcardreform.org.
As for the insurance companies, I don’t have a good resource for that one yet. But I plan to send letters to my Senators and Representative, and to the Senators and the Representative of the state where the company is headquartered. I think I’ll write Ralph Nader too, and see if he has any advice.
Squeak, squeak, squeak says the wheel! Power to the people! (just kidding – that was a little dramatic.)