Wednesday, July 6, 2011

COBRA–You can look but you better not touch!

This is the formal complaint I made today with the Department of Insurance against Mangrove, the company that is supposed to provide COBRA benefits to my family.  Twenty seven days later and I still don’t have insurance benefits.  I’m out well over $1000 that they finally decided to inform Aetna about yesterday.  Thanks Mangrove.  I guess COBRA is a great idea in theory.  But good luck taking advantage of it when you need it. 

Department of Insurance

This is a formal complaint against Mangrove, the company providing COBRA services to me and my family. I have Type 1 diabetes, a chronic disorder that requires constant medical attention. Disruption in insurance coverage is detrimental to my health. COBRA should help fill the gaps when switching from one employer to another, consequently changing insurance providers. However, Mangrove has taken an inordinate amount of time to process information as well as be informative to me or to Aetna, my prior insurance provider.

My husband emailed Mangrove about paying for insurance coverage for only me and not the entire family. This email was sent on June 3. After receiving no response a follow up email was sent on June 8, stating we had not received a response. My husband had to make a phone call in order to get the question answered even though our paperwork stated that email was a preferred method of communication with Mangrove.

On June 9 we mailed a check to Mangrove. It was received on June 14, according to a Mangrove employee. This check was not deposited until June 30. Two days earlier, on June 28, my husband made an online payment which immediately came out of our account. We hoped the online payment would speed up the process since the hospital lab, my endocrinologist’s office, my insulin pump supply provider, and the pharmacy are all requesting full payment.

Aetna was not informed of any COBRA payment until Tuesday, July 5. They require five to seven business days to process the payment and provide the same level of coverage they had before we needed COBRA to mediate for us. On Wednesday, July 6, a Mangrove employee reluctantly agreed to put in an urgent request on our behalf. This was after she told us twice to call back on Friday, July 8 and the urgent request would be put in then.

I have paid over a thousand dollars for COBRA benefits and am being billed for more than that amount because Mangrove has taken so long to do anything with my money. The paperwork we received from Mangrove regarding our COBRA coverage stated that there is a 30 day grace period. I was not aware that there was an additional 30 day grace period for them to process any payments I make. This level of unprofessionalism is unacceptable.

COBRA is a service to help maintain insurance coverage for people who find themselves out of work for any reason. I am appalled that this is how those customers are treated at a time when their financial means are already being stretched.


Tristan Westover

2 thoughts:

Ray Colon said...

Hi Tristan,

Sorry to hear about the problem that you're having with your COBRA coverage. That's just so wrong.

At work, I worry about employees who have been let go, so I manage our company's COBRA coverage internally, rather than outsourcing it. This way, employees send their payments to me and their insurance premiums continue to be paid by the company. As far as the insurance company is concerned, there is no change, as they continue to receive the payment for the group from the company.

COBRA coverage is expensive, so the kind of lapse in coverage that you describe is unacceptable. I hope that they have gotten their act together by now. Ray

The Piquant Storyteller said...

Hi Ray,

Thanks for your comment. And thank you for actually understanding how COBRA works! I spent a lot of time on the phone on Friday trying to give my new insurance ID and group number so things could be rebilled. Nobody knew what I was talking about!

My letter to the CA department of insurance was done online so I couldn't give them this eloquently peeved letter! I did send it to Mangrove. I didn't think anything would come of my formal complaint and maybe nothing will. But years ago we were on COBRA 3 months before my second was born. Yeah, that was fun. The issue then was they tried to give us a new deductible. Heath called the department of insurance and suddenly everyone was apologetic and claiming computer glitch.

I have to believe the squeaky wheel gets the grease because Aetna worked with us like saints despite Mangrove's unprofessionalism. Everything worked out the day after I posted this. It shouldn't have worked out until this week. Now all I want is for the department of insurance to do a review of Mangrove so this doesn't happen to anyone else.

I'm so impressed that you get how COBRA works to the point that your company takes care of those benefits the way they do. It's nice that insurance coverage stays the same but having to be at the mercy of another company to make that happen is a real pain in the butt. On behalf of everyone from your company who has to use COBRA, thank you for being human and getting it!