Running a business more like a government, revisited

Here’s my list of the world’s largest bureaucracies, listed in order from biggest to smallest: the U.N., the U.S. health care industry (lumping providers and insurers together), the old Soviet Union, and the Federal Government. Feel free to quibble with my order – I’m not married to it – but you’ve got to admit that they all deserve to be on the list. Today I have no qualms with world organizations or sovereign nations (red commie bastards and otherwise). No friends, today my ire is directed at everyone’s favorite whipping boy: the health care industry – and specifically, one unnamed provider of prescription medication.

It all started with an order for drugs by mail. By now most of you are familiar with the mail order drugs phenomenon – the Sam’s Club of prescription medication. Well we were a little late to the party, but we were eager to take advantage of the cost savings realized by buying bulk. We placed our order and waited the recommended two weeks for delivery. In no time at all we received an email confirmation that our order was received, then, nothing. When our patience finally gave out, Cheryl (our designated corporate complaint liaison), picked up the phone. The news was not encouraging. We were told that our order was not shipped because they needed our authorization to ship a partial order (due to one of the prescriptions being denied by insurance). Never one to shy away from a telephone confrontation, Cheryl replied, “Did you ever consider soliciting our authorization, or did you plan to wait for us to get desperate enough to call you?”

Ah, the delightful smell of conflict in the air,

Cheryl gave them authorization to ship the partial order, and asked them not to pursue clearance for the denied medication (we no longer wanted it). Two days later we received our medication, sans the one we needed most – and unexpectedly including a 90 day supply of the denied (and unwanted) medication. That prompted, you guessed it: another appearance by our corporate complaint liaison. The mail order company explained that our much needed medication was no longer on our insurance formulary, and that they would send a return label out to us for the unwanted medication (and a refund). The next day, we filled the same prescription (that was not filled by the mail order joint) at our local pharmacy. If we found any of this the least bit funny at the time, this next bit would have us blowing our milk out our nose, our local pharmacy owns the mail order service.

Another two days pass, and I discover a voice mail message on my cell phone. It was the mail order service. They wanted to speak to me about getting money off the price of prescription number xxxxx. I called them back the next day. It turned out that in return for our troubles they were willing to discount my next refill of the prescription indicated in the message. You guessed it. It turned out to be the medication they originally said was denied, and then shipped anyway.

“Let me get this straight. You want to give me half off a prescription that was denied by insurance, that we said we didn’t want, and that you already sent to us once by mistake?”

“Can I put you on hold?”

It turned out she wasn’t really asking.

Dear Lord, I never thought I would need to ask you this favor, but could you please make them stop sending me drugs I don’t want?