Saturday, August 30, 2014

United Healthcare and OptumRx

How “Aggressive Marketing” Can Kill Great Customer Service

By Joni Newkirk -  CEO, Integrated Insight

I loved UnitedHealthcare. They’ve been my insurer for over four years and I’ve recommended them to friends and family as I found their coverage and service to be better than expected - until today.

Recently, UnitedHealthcare chose OptumRx as their mail order provider of pharmaceuticals. Despite the claim of lower cost, I chose to keep filling my prescriptions at my local pharmacy for a number of other, non-cost related reasons. We were automatically enrolled into the OptumRx program by UnitedHealthcare, and OptumRx has been aggressive about trying to get our business, but we’ve declined.

Today, we received a letter saying we would have to start paying 100% of our medication costs if we did not start using OptumRx, or, we could call and dis-enroll from the mail order provider program. Easy decision since we were not using mail order anyway. The OptumRx customer service agent was quick, helpful, and dis-enrolled us with no questions asked. She had obviously been to this rodeo before. She was also a bundle of insight as to what would happen next, letting me know that despite calling and dis-enrolling, UnitedHealthcare would automatically re-enroll us next year when our benefits came up for re-enrollment.

Think about it. On most health plans, if there are no changes, you do nothing. Having dis-enrolled from OptumRx, shouldn’t that now be part of my record? On the phone with UnitedHealthcare I go. The customer service agent tried to smooth over the issue, but when a corporate policy or process is just plain wrong, there is only so much an agent can do. He said we would get a letter, and we could choose to opt out at that time. I challenged him. There is a difference between a letter informing you about the service and giving directions to opt in, versus a letter saying you personally have to take action to dis-enroll – again. Further, he mentioned that if you do not dis-enroll – again - after a couple of retail pharmacy refills, you will be threatened with paying 100% of your medication costs. He offered up without asking that this was “aggressive” marketing, but confirmed that was how the process worked.

Forcing members to experience Groundhog Day every year - to make a phone call or go online to dis-enroll again from a program they intentionally dis-enrolled from the year before – is beyond poor customer service. It ignores what is right for the customer in an effort to hard sell a program that apparently does a poor job of selling itself. I’ll go through the pain each year as I’m otherwise satisfied, but I feel sad about this chink in their armor, and I’ve lost trust in the company. Now my enthusiastic “Yes!” recommendation will become “Yes, but…” You can do better, UnitedHealthcare.