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Friday, July 23, 2010

The Medco Model of Customer Service



I am enrolled with a health plan through which I get my medications from Medco®.  On June 25, my doctor sent in a prescription for Patanol®, an allergy medication for the eyes. As of July 10, I had received no word on the prescription.



On Saturday,  July 10, I called Medco to find out what had happened.  After navigating their inane voice-mail system, I was able to speak to a human being.  I achieved this amazing feat by repeatedly saying "representative" to all of the voice-mail prompts.

The woman on the other end told me that my prescription had stopped for some unknown reason, but that she could restart it manually and that I should expect it to arrive in 8-10 days.  She told me that I could go to my local pharmacy and that Medco would pay for a 7-day supply to hold me over.  It sounded too good to be true.

My Local Pharmacy


My local pharmacy is  part of a local grocery chain that never ceases to please me.  I went to the local pharmacy window and explained my predicament. The pharmacist called the Medco help-desk number that had been given to me by the Medco employee.  It took him awhile to navigate their voice-mail system.  After repeatedly saying "representative" he was able to speak to a human being, who sent him to another person, who sent him to another person.  The local pharmacist must have spent 30-40 minutes on the phone with Medco.

In the end, Medco told my pharmacist that there was nothing they could do for me.  Apparently my doctor had filled out the prescription for a 45-day supply, and they had a minimum of a  72-hour supply.  The local pharmacist asked whether they intended to contact my doctor to fix the error; after receiving a negative response, I heard him say, "something just doesn't seem right about that."

After explaining to me what had happened, my local pharmacist  offered to contact my doctor on Monday so that they could fill the prescription locally.  In the meantime, he pointed out  an over-the-counter medication that he claimed worked just as well, an antihistamine called ketotifen fumarate.




I thanked him profusely for his valiant but futile efforts battling the Medco bureaucracy and took him up on both offers. I found that the non-prescription antihistime does indeed work well.

(Followup 6-11-2011: see my comparison of the two medications.)

Letters With Medco

I would like to know why Medco had no intention of letting either me or my doctor know that there was a problem.  When I got home I e-mailed the following message to Medco:


Greetings,

I am disappointed with your service.  On June 25 my doctor sent an order for Patanol. I received no notification that there was a problem. When I called I was told that a manual order would be entered and I could pick up a free 7-day supply from my local pharmacist.  When the pharmacist called, he got a different story.  You claimed there was nothing you could do.  When he asked whether you intended to follow-up with my doctor, he got an unsatisfactory reply.

I reserve the right to use this message and your response or lack thereof on blogs and social media.

Thanks,

Rich
I received the following automated reply:

Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for your inquiry. All inquiries are handled on a first-come, first-served basis and most are responded to within 72 hours. If you need immediate assistance, please contact a Member Services Representative by calling your toll-free Member Services phone number.

We appreciate and value your feedback and hope that you will visit us online again soon.

This e-mail message and any attachments contain confidential information from Medco Health Solutions, Inc. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that disclosure, printing, copying, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this electronic information is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail message in error, please immediately notify the sender by reply message and then delete the electronic message and any attachments.

This e-mail message and any attachments contain confidential
information
from Medco. If you are not the intended recipient, you
are hereby notified that disclosure, printing, copying,
distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance on the
contents of this electronic information is strictly prohibited. If
you have received this e-mail message in error, please immediately
notify the sender by reply message and then delete the electronic
message and any attachments.
On Monday, July 12 I received:

To Rich Green,

Thank you for your online inquiry. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. At this time I do no show a claim was submit through your local pharmacy for a short term supply. Please contact your local pharmacy for more information.

I understand your concern regarding the status of your order and will be happy to look into that for you. Medco was unable to fill Rx # XXXXXXXXXX-XX because under the provisions of your home delivery pharmacy plan, we are not able to fill prescriptions written for a supply of medication that is less than the minimum set by your plan. Please submit a new prescription to:

Medco Health Solutions of Tampa 4
P.O. Box 30493, Tampa, FL 33630-3493

If mailing, please enclose a note stating your member number, patient name and date of birth, physician name and phone number, your current mailing address and daytime phone number or download a Medco Mail Service delivery order form by following this link: http://www.medco.com

Depending on how your order was received, you will need to allow:
11-14 days for mailed in prescriptions;
8-11 days for faxed prescriptions;
5-7 days for refills

If you would prefer to have your prescription faxed to us, please have your physician's office call 1-888-327-9791 to request a fax form and receive instructions on our fax procedure.

If you need medication before your order arrives, please contact your physician to obtain a prescription for a short-term 14 day supply. This prescription may be filled at your local participating pharmacy.

Thank you for visiting medco.com.

Breann C.
eCSR Medco

If you have any further questions or issues, please visit our site at http://www.medco.com

This e-mail message and any attachments contain confidential information from Medco Health Solutions, Inc. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that disclosure, printing, copying, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this electronic information is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail message in error, please immediately notify the sender by reply message and then delete the electronic message and any attachments.
 I responded:

Dear Breann C,

I do not think that you have correctly understood my concerns.

1) "At this time I do no show a claim was submit through your local pharmacy for a short term supply. Please contact your local pharmacy for more information."

I was standing there when my pharmacist called the medco helpline and attempted to submit a claim.  I was told by medco there would be no problem and the pharmacist should simply call the number if he needed help.  He did call it, and medco responded that they could not do anything.  Why did medco tell me on the phone that they could help, if they could not?  Why did I take an hour out of my day to go to the local pharmacy on instructions from medco, if those instructions were not valid?  Why did my pharmacist have to spend 30-40 minutes on the phone with medco following up on erroneous instructions from medco.  Will you reimburse us for our time?  I do not think you will like my billable rate.

2) If there was a problem with my order, how come I was not told about it and had to call you.
3) How come when I called, I was told that it would be fixed, but my pharmacist was told that it could not be fixed.
4) If the prescription was not filled out correctly, why was my doctor not informed.
5) Does medco believe in customer service?

Again, I reserve the right to use your response, if any, on my blog and on social media of my choosing.

Thanks,

Rich
After my response I received another e-mail informing me that I could expect a response.

I called my local pharmacist; they did exactly what they said they would and  told me my prescription was ready to pick up.

On Tuesday, July 13, I received:
To Rich Green,

Thank you for your online inquiry. Based on your plan design, Patanol Opth Soln 5ml - 0.1% under the provisions of your home delivery pharmacy plan, Medco is not able to fill the prescriptions written for a supply of medication that is less than the minimum set by your plan. Please refer to your plan for more information.

If you would like to speak with one of our registered pharmacists, please contact member services at 1(800)903-4725.

If the retail pharmacist needs assistance with processing the claim, please have him/her call our pharmacy help desk at 1-800-922-1557.

I apologize for the inconvenience and difficulties you experienced. You may submit a formal complaint by contacting member services at 1-(800)418-0670 or by contacting us online at http://www.medco.com If you would like to submit a complaint in writing, please send it to the following location:

Attn: Resolution Department
6225 Annie Oakley Dr.
Las Vegas, NV 89120

Thank you for visiting medco.com.

Michael M.
eCSR Medco
To which I responded:

Dear Michael M.

Thanks for your non-responsive message.  Yes, I would like to submit a formal complaint online.  I thought that is what I was doing by contacting you at http://www.medco.com.  Consider this e-mail a complaint.

Again, I reserve the right to use your response, if any, on my blog and on social media of my choosing.

Thanks,

Rich
My Local Pharmacy Comes Through Again

On Wednesday, July 14, I went to my local pharmacist and picked up the prescription with no issues.  It is worth noting that the copay is more than the cost of the non-prescription alternative.  In the long run, if I find the OTC medication still works, I will probably stop getting the prescription.

More Bureaucracy From Medco

At this point, the issue is really Medco's poor customer service, and not whether or not they fill the prescription.  On Wednesday, July 14, I also received the following message from medco:
To Rich Green,

Thank you for your feedback regarding Medco customer service. We apologize for the inconvenience, and difficulties, you experienced. Your comments are being reviewed and addressed by our Customer Services organization. We appreciate, and value, your feedback, and sincerely hope that you will visit us online again soon.

Thank you for visiting medco.com.

Eric B.
eCSR Medco

If you have any further questions or issues, please visit our site at http://www.medco.com

This e-mail message and any attachments contain confidential information from Medco Health Solutions, Inc. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that disclosure, printing, copying, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this electronic information is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail message in error, please immediately notify the sender by reply message and then delete the electronic message and any attachments.
On Friday, July 16, my wife received an e-mail from Medco saying they were processing a prescription received on July 10.   I checked the website, and it looks like they put the order back in.  Are we about to dance around in a circle?  Will they address my comments about their customer service, or will they just ignore them?

On July 18, I posted the following query:
To Eric B.,

When can I expect a response?

Thanks,

Rich Green
On Monday,  July 19, I received a shipment of patanol from medco and the following e-mail:

To Rich Green,

Thank you for your online inquiry. I apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced. Patanol Opth Soln 5ml - 0.1% was mailed on 7/16/10. You can expect to receive your order on or around 7/21/10. Please note that you can view order status and find the exact date your prescription(s) were shipped by following this link: www.medco.com

Depending on how your order was received, please allow:
7-11 calendar days for mailed new prescriptions;
5-8 calendar days for faxed in prescriptions by the physician;
6-9 calendar days for mailed in refill slips;
3-5 calendar days for phoned in refills or online orders
** This excludes Sundays and holidays. **

An easy way to keep track of the status of your orders is to be notified via e-mail. If you did not select this option during registration and would like to be notified about your prescription status via e-mail, simply update your profile.

If you need medication before your order arrives, please contact your physician to obtain a prescription for a short term 14 day supply. This prescription may be filled at your local participating pharmacy.

Thank you for visiting medco.com.

Michael M.
eCSR Medco

If you have any further questions or issues, please visit our site at http://www.medco.com

This e-mail message and any attachments contain confidential information from Medco Health Solutions, Inc. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that disclosure, printing, copying, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this electronic information is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail message in error, please immediately notify the sender by reply message and then delete the electronic message and any attachments.
To which I responded:

Dear Michael M.,

I received the Patanol today.  Thanks.  When can I expect a response to my complaint about Medco's customer service?

Again, I reserve the right to use your response, if any, on my blog and on social media of my choosing.

Thanks,

Rich Green
I received the following response:

To Rich Green,

Thank you for your online inquiry. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you. My records indicate your complaint has been forwarded to the appropriate area for handling. Your complaint will be reviewed. You will not receive a response regarding your complaint.

Thank you for visiting medco.com.

Twanna G.
eCSR Medco

If you have any further questions or issues, please visit our site at http://www.medco.com

This e-mail message and any attachments contain confidential information from Medco Health Solutions, Inc. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that disclosure, printing, copying, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this electronic information is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail message in error, please immediately notify the sender by reply message and then delete the electronic message and any attachments.
How disappointing.  All they had to do was tell me that I should never have been given the run-around  and that they are working to improve their customer service operation.  Of course, that's probably not the truth.   I thought about complaining about their complaint process, but I thought better of it.  I imagine the truth is that they do not care about customer service, that they pay their agents $7.00 an hour, that they do not train them, that they work in a cubicle farm with no windows, that they time their bathroom breaks, and that they are planning to outsource the jobs to Pune, Maharastra, India.  I guess they could have told me that too.  By telling me that I will receive no response, they are telling me that they do not care about their customers.

14 comments:

Rajendra "Raj" Bhat RPh said...

Dear Rich Green

On July 5, 2010 I began a hunger strike against Medco.

I am a Tampa pharmacist and worked at Medco Netpark from 1995-2005.

My concern is about it's *Quota System* which pressures RPh's to work faster and faster. Currently RPh's have a minute or less to process an Rx. On average RPh's are expected to *enter and check* 45-55 prescriptions per hour.

This is wrong! unsafe for patients! and must be changed.

Please read my blog.
http://www.ihungerstrike.blogspot.com

It's time to speak up and speak out about Medco. THANK YOU for taking time to share your Medco experience. Any one else got problems? Let me know.

Support is gathering from ex-Medco people, government officials and journalists/media across the US and world.

I am adding your comments to my Facebook page Raj Bhat RPh Hunger Strike Vs Medco.

Raj Bhat RPh
Tampa FL

Rich said...

Thanks. I've linked to your blog.

1800 Phone Number said...

As a whole I think Medco's customer service is rated as good.

Rich said...

Thanks for the comment. Who made such a rating? It is completely at odds with my experience as a customer.

Rich said...

See also:

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/rx/medco.html

Carol said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Madcow employee said...

As an employee of Medco currently I agree the training and the quality of customer service really does need improving. We take calls back to back with very little time between them. It is constantly busy and I often wonder myself if the system is 99% accurate as stated from the higher ups, that is a hell of a lot of 1% members out there. Granted you seem intelligent, but for the most part members who call are hardly that and do need to take responsibility for their own actions. So just as disappointed in the system as you are I too have had my own grief with my prescriptions with Medco, thank God they are free to me.
Either way the sad thing is they really don't care. They expect the customer service reps to kiss members asses so they don't write in or call further. I don't have a problem doing that and I know how to do my job and make more than twice your suggested $7.00 hr. and at this time and day that is not bad. They give us a lot of perks but do give us a lot of shit. I sympathize with you as I too am a member/victim of Medco!!!

Rich said...

Dear madcow,

Thanks, it's interesting to hear an inside perspective.

Anonymous said...

You can go to Cvs and have your childs medication filled as tamoxifen or you can go through the most advanced pharmacy system ever concocted. You vote with your business not your silly rants and one offs for an antihistamine

Rich said...

What?

jeannecolby said...

I have had problems with Medco for many years. We have to use them for refills on medications that we take continuously.
They are totally inefficient and exasperating. Filling an Rx at my pharmacy takes maybe 20 min. Medco/Express Scripts can take 2 weeks!! We have Rxs for medication that is controlled so Rx cannot be phoned or faxed in. Total nightmare each time.
Latest is today: after several phone calls and emails regarding a very slow transaction I received an automated call from Medco. Said they needed to verify my shipping address. Amazing! So I sat on hold for 10min. then an automated voice said that lines were too busy so I should call back. Really?!
To top it off the voice said that if they didin't hear from me by Monday, today is Saturday, my order would be cancelled. What?!! I have two days to call them back for their inane unnecessary request or they will cancel an order that I've been waiting more than 2 weeks for?

Rich said...

@jeannecolby: sounds exasperating.

Anonymous said...

I've experienced nothing but exasperation since being forced to deal with Medco. I have never been able to simply place an order and have it handled correctlyand efficiently, despite confirming the accuracy of my prescription each time with my doctor and with my insurance company. I wish I could just deal with my local pharmacists, however my one med is not covered in the same way asthrough Merci. It would cost 3x as much. I came across this page while searching for a legitimate corporate email address at Medco in order to file a complaint about the ongoing lack of efficiency or ptrofessionalism. I don't know what to do at this point to get my medication, and I'm beyond frustrated. It's truly astonishing how their customer service (!!!) operates!

Anonymous said...

(Medco, not Merci)