If You've Ever Wondered Why Parents of Children With Chronic Illness Spend So Much Time on the Phone


I’ve recently had several billing problems with my son’s specialty pharmacy. This is not uncommon in rare or chronic diseases. Pharmacy problems. Insurance problems. Phone calls. Documentation. Repeat phone calls. Sometimes I feel like I spend all day on the phone or computer (on some days, I actually do).

To give an insight to those who don’t live in this world, and in an effort to provide an example of companies offering poor customer service, here is a transcript of my morning. Note that this is the fourth such call this month.

I dial and go through several prompts to attempt to contact the billing department.

On hold for eight minutes. [Not too bad considering my last call started with 20 minutes on hold.]

This is XXX in billing. How can I help you?

[Since I’ve already spent three hours this month on this same issue, detailing it every time, sitting on hold (generally 10-20 minutes), getting transferred and explaining the issue again, sometimes getting cut off and others being told something different each time, I thought I’d try to go a little higher up the food chain. All I’m trying to do is get them to bill my insurance for a month’s worth of medication I received over three weeks ago.]

Can I speak with a billing manager please?

I’m in billing.

Can I speak with a billing manager please?

I’m in billing. I can help you the same way as a billing manager.

We’ve tried to resolve this problem several times, with phone calls each lasting an hour or more, so I need to speak with someone who can resolve it and not have to repeat myself and be transferred.

OK, let me transfer you.

On hold for two minutes.

Thank you for calling. Are you a new patient, existing patient, or provider? Please press 1 for new patient, press 2 for existing patient, press 3 for provider.

I press 2.

What is the phone number including area code associated with this account?

XXX-XXX-XXXX

Please hold for our next available patient care advocate.

On hold for five minutes.

Thank you for calling. This is XXX in billing. How can I help you?

Can I speak with a billing manager please?

I’m in billing.

Can I speak with a billing manager please? We’ve had a repeated problem so I need to speak with someone who can resolve it and not have to repeat myself and be transferred.

OK, let me transfer you.

On hold for two minutes.

Thank you for calling. Are you a new patient, existing patient, or provider? Please press 1 for new patient, press 2 for existing patient, press 3 for provider.

I press 2.

What is the phone number including area code associated with this account?

XXX-XXX-XXXX

We’re sorry, your order cannot be completed through our automatic refill service. Please hold for our next available patient care advocate.

On hold for two minutes.

Hi, this is XXX in billing. How can I help you?

Can I speak with a billing manager please?

OK, let me transfer you.

On hold for fifteen minutes.

Hi. This is XXX and I can try to help you. Can I get some information from you so I can send information over to them when I reach someone?

Sure.

Do you have an account with us?

Yes.

Is this for you, your husband?

My son.

Can I have his last name, please?

XXX

Can I have his first name, please?

XXX

Can I have his date of birth, please?

XXX

Please verify your zip code?

XXX

Can you please wait a moment while I get the billing department on the line?

I’ve spoken to several people today in the billing department. What I need is a manager who can resolve this issue.

Well, I need to get them on the line first to get a manager. What is your name?

Melissa Hogan.

On hold for five minutes.

Ms. Hogan, I’m just checking back. I’m waiting for a rep to pick up so I can get a manager for you.

Thank you.

Do you still want to hold or can I give you a number that you can call back?

I’ve been redirected to the same prompts several times already this morning and spent 40 minutes on this call with no resolution, how else do I resolve this? Do you have a direct number of anyone I can reach?

No. I just have a number for billing.

Is it XXX? If so, I already have that number.

I just have the same number you have for billing.

I spoke last week to a lady named XXX who is a resolution team lead, can you
connect me to her?

Let me find her on the phone list. [On hold for one minute.] OK, yes, she is a manager. Let me try to connect you.

On hold for one minute.

Ms. Hogan, she is not answering, but let me try the other line for a supervisor. Can you hold please?

Minute 42:37 on this call.

On hold for five minutes.

Ms. Hogan, I apologize. I’m still waiting for a supervisor. Do you want to continue to hold?

I have no choice. This happens every time I call. I’m 48 minutes invested now. Sure.

OK, I’ll keep trying XXX as well.

On hold for nine minutes.

Hello, how can I help you? [So quiet, I can barely hear it.]

I can barely hear you. Is there a way to turn up the volume?

No. [Unintelligible] no volume.

OK, I may need you to repeat things. Are you a billing manager?

No. [Unintelligible]. Management.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Are you a billing manager?

No, my name is XXX. I am a member of management.

[I explain the entire debacle, holding back the choice words floating in my head.]

I have in the records that a request was submitted last week for it to be billed. I can reach out to the representative who submitted to the request and check on the status.

Do you not want the money for the $35,000 worth of medication sitting in my fridge? You can “reach out to the representative?” When will this be billed, seeing as how I’ve had this medication for three weeks?

I don’t know what happened before last week. I have in the records that a request was submitted last week for it to be billed. All I can do is reach out to the representative who submitted to the request and check on the status.

And how will I know when this has been billed? My son’s medication bills out at almost $400,000 per year and I’m not going to order any more until things with you get resolved, if ever.

I will reach out and see what is going on. Let me confirm the information I have. Is your insurance XXX?

Yes.

I have your phone number as XXX. Is that where I can reach you?

Yes.

I will look into this. Is there anything else I can help you with?

No. [Hell no.]

Thank you for calling.

You’re welcome.

Minute 58:59. [Whew, I made it out before an hour! But by past experience, this will not be the last call.]

If you’ve ever wondered what parents of children with rare or chronic illnesses do all day, or why they often don’t have time for coffee, or can’t put their children in time-consuming sports and other activities, remember this post.

We can spend a ton of time on the phone about our child’s health care.

And then we blog about it.

A version of this post first appeared on SavingCase.com.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Not Yet Categorized

Priceline Pauses Distasteful Adoption Ad in Response to Mom’s Blog

Ginger and her son One mom’s blog post has convinced Priceline.com to pause its distasteful adoption ad. On Friday, Mighty contributor Ginger Newingham, who blogs at “Our Moments Defined,” wrote a post in response to Priceline’s commercial that premiered during the Super Bowl. In the ad, a couple is able to travel to Eastern Europe (because of [...]

What This Special Needs Mom Really Means When She Says ‘I’m Fine’

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered the words “We’re fine” in the last three years. To family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, you name it. With a son who has major medical needs, a demanding full-time job and another preschool-aged child, I’m often asked (out of kindness and curiosity), “How are you? How do you [...]

18 Things People With Chronic Illness Wish They Knew When They First Experienced Symptoms

A journey with chronic illness typically begins when a person first starts experiencing symptoms, and it can be a confusing and uncertain time. There’s so much to learn not only about your health, but about working with doctors, managing friendships and finding the support you need. We asked our Mighty community with chronic illness what they [...]

When Friends Offer ‘Alternative Treatments’ for Your Child’s Health Issues

When I posted about my son’s double ear infections on Facebook, I think I was looking for a few words of encouragement from a select audience who should have already known these things about my son: He was born with bilateral hearing loss and has abnormally small ear canals; He wears a hearing aid in his left [...]