Thursday, November 7, 2013

IBM Extend Health Transition Complaints --- All Roads Lead to Extend Health

I wrote to Dr. Rhee to, once again, complain about what is happening.
What follows is my email to and answer from Dr. Rhee about the incorrect enrollment information I got from Extend Health.  IBM is now pushing most complaints to Extend Health to answer.  I spent about 30 minutes on the phone yesterday with an EH "specialist" after we played phone tag a few times.  In one of his voice messages he told me the agent involved in screwing up my enrollment would be counseled as this was a teachable moment.  I left a testy voice message back and saying "don't you dare blame this on any individual … there are many agents who are giving us wrong answers so it is EH management who is at fault for not properly training their agents".  When we did talk he dropped the BS bingo language and we had a honest conversation. I told him the way EH is communicating with us really stinks whether it is related to program rule changes, website design, agents saying things wrong, having to spend hours on the phone just to enroll and not being able to read the legal rantings in addition to hearing a recording that sounds like it is being played at the wrong audio speed.  
Extend Health can't take the rap for IBM doing this crappy transition. They can only take the rap for crappy service.  It is IBM executives that decided to create this mess and threw a bunch of old people under the bus.  The only positive thought I can conger about what is happening is that one day the people who thought it was so clever to do this will also be old.  Even though they might have a lot more money than me, most of them won't be Warren Buffet rich so they will still have to deal with the same health insurance crap we are dealing with now and NO subsidy because that benefit is long gone.  By then Medicare will be means tested to the max so their Medicare insurance will cost them a whole lot more and hopefully suck all their money away!  

From: Retiree Comms <>
Sent: Wed, Nov 6, 2013 12:12 pm
Subject: Extend Health Transition Major Enrollment Problem


I have asked an Extend Health executive to contact you to review your experience.  We take customer service very seriously and your experience is not acceptable.  We are working very closely with Extend Health on the quality of support their benefit advisors deliver. 

We are not able to meet your request to continue in your Aetna Medicare Integration plan.  That plan is very similar to Medigap plans, which are available to every retiree on the exchange.  I know this is not the answer you were looking for, but we believe the Medicare Exchange delivers increased choice and flexibility in plan options for the vast majority of our retirees.  

Thank you for writing to express your concerns.

Kyu Rhee, MD, MPP
Vice President Integrated Health Services

To:        Kyu Rhee/Somers/IBM@IBMUS
Cc:        Diane J Gherson/Armonk/IBM@IBMUS
Date:        11/01/2013 07:21 AM
Subject:        Extend Health Transistion Major Enrollment Problem

Dear Dr, Rhee,

I did all my homework and checked THREE times with Extend Health agents to be sure my enrollment selections would be acceptable to EH such that I could get my HRA subsidy. I checked both before and after my enrollment call. Everyone I spoke with at EH confirmed my selection would meet the criteria for enrollment such that I could get my HRA subsidy. And, my profile indicates I am enrolled and my application is being processed. My EH plan choice was to enroll in the same part D insurance plan I am already using in 2013.
When does an EH enrollment mean "maybe not"? I am learning that I am not really enrolled in an insurance plan until the insurance company processes and accepts my application. Better still - EH says it is not their problem if the insurance company rejects my enrollment EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW IT WILL BE REJECTED.
I know my application will be rejected because a colleague tried, this week, to do a similar enrollment to mine and the EH agent he worked with knew enough to stop him from doing it. My colleague specifically referenced my enrollment and gave the EH agent my name to say ... that person did it ... why can't I? According to the EH agents he worked with - my enrollment through EH will be rejected by my part D insurance plan because I already am enrolled in that plan. Ergo, I will not have enrolled in a plan via Extend Health and since EH will not show as the insurance agent of record I will not have access to my HRA subsidy. 
Now, I would have thought the EH agent would immediately flag my profile and tell someone to call me asap because the agent knew my name and that I will have this problem. Instead - he told my colleague this wasn't an EH problem - they are only the insurance agent. He said the insurance company will send me a letter and tell me about the duplicate enrollment rejection. My guess is the letter will say since I am already enrolled in the plan I don't need to enroll again. My further guess is they will say nothing about the fact that EH is therefore not the agent of record for my plan. And, therefore, had my colleague not tried to do the same thing, I would likely think I still had full access to my HRA subsidy. 
Wait - it gets better. If the insurance company sends me a letter after December 7th, I will still be in a stew even if I realize the impact on my HRA subsidy access. I will not be able to switch to another part D plan because Medicare Fall Enrollment will be close and I have no SEP for my part D plan. Ergo - no subsidy for me! Wow, this really demonstrates how EH is totally invested in helping me make the right insurance choices. 
THE ONLY REASON I KNOW ABOUT THIS PROBLEM IS PURE LUCK that a friend tried to do the same thing. 
I decided I will call EH and just tell them I changed my mind and want to enroll in another part D plan rather than try to fight this battle with them. I'm the one that has the most to lose re my HRA subsidy. Ugh, another hour  plus on the phone with EH enrollment listening to boilerplate and repeating my name and SS# a thousand times. It's a good thing I am retired. 
Is this really a better choice for IBM retirees?  Certainly it is not for me.  I am begging you - please give me back the choice of Aetna Retiree Health Access health exchange so I can get my Aetna Integration plan. RHA was a true insurance health exchange that offered excellent choices at stellar premium prices.  You did it for Aetna PPO and HMO enrollees.  Why can't you do it for Aetna Integration enrollees too? 


  1. Is anybody talking lawsuit for discrimination? Because I picked the Aetna integration plan last year I no longer have dental coverage? That's what it comes down to.
    We should've had the chance to change from the
    Aetna Integration to the other one.

  2. Discrimination only would come into play if it were age, gender, religion .... based. There is no such discrimination. Sadly, there is no legal obligation for IBM to even provide a subsidy. It was always a handshake deal with retirees. We just believed it was a trustworthy handshake. I guess the new crop of executives don't believe in commitments.