When Customer Service Becomes a Disservice

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The one thing Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on these days is that our health care system needs fixing. Recently, a small but telling incident helped me appreciate the magnitude of the problem when I set out to accomplish a simple task: locating an OD with a decent eyewear selection covered by my vision insurance plan.

First, I called the 800-number on my insurance card and listened to the options. None offered the info I needed, so I opted to speak to a representative who asked my name and verified my identity.

Then the fun began. After requesting a list of eye doctors near my home, the rep attempted to match me with practitioners in nearby zip codes. He didn’t know the local area, so the first three he selected were in another county, which would have involved a 30-mile trip.

Finally, he found one near my home. Bingo! Unfortunately, when I called the practice, I was greeted by a recording that told me that the optometrist had died and his practice had been acquired by an ophthalmologist.

I was transferred to a receptionist. I explained that I was covered by a vision insurance plan and would like to come in and shop for some glasses. But the receptionist explained that the doctor doesn’t take insurance, and doesn’t have a dispensary. Would I like to make an appointment for an eye exam? No, I only wanted to shop for glasses.

No doubt some insurance companies have their act together. But in my dealings with medical, dental and vision care insurance companies, I have found that most are more adept at providing customer disservice rather than customer service, often doling out incorrect information. I imagine my experience is not atypical.

The health care crisis is huge but if we can’t fix easy problems like this, we’re really in trouble.

akarp@jobson.com