Aetna is killing my cholesterol

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If stress increases cholesterol (and it does) then Aetna is killing me. And others, too. Seriously.

Back in December 2013 we switched our healthcare plan to Aetna: we are self-insured, health insurance is a huge ticket item for us, and Obamacare changed a lot about insurance so we needed to make a change. We did a lot of research and after much deliberation and analysis, we chose a non-Obamacare Aetna program. One that had been up and running for years. One that should work just fine no matter what.

This program came highly recommended from my insurance broker.  Aetna is a huge company. Most of my doctors accept the plan. All should have been fine.

So what’s the problem?

Aetna’s billing system is so incredibly screwed up that they have cancelled my plan TWICE (!!) for non-payment even though I’m fully paid up.  And I know that I am not alone in this: my insurance broker is mortified and told me I’m not the only one with this problem.

Aetna has a billing systems issue that is seriously flawed. And it’s causing me huge stress, which, in turn, is very likely increasing my already-too-high LDL (bad) cholesterol. According to Dr. Lisa Matzer, in an Everyday Health article entitled, How Does Stress Contribute To Cholesterol:

“The more anger and hostility that stress produces in you, the higher (and worse) your LDL and triglyceride levels tend to be.”

Let me tell you:  it’s wildly stressful to find out your insurance has been erroneously cancelled – and then have it take HOURS over several DAYS to get it reinstated. And then have them cancel it AGAIN 2 months later.  Let’s just say, anger and hostility abound, which Dr. Matzer says raises bad cholesterol.

I have tried to get Aetna to fix my bill for seven — SEVEN — consecutive months. I have had to call each and every month. I’m assured it’s fixed.  Then it’s not. Then they cancel me even though I’m fully paid up.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so stressful.

The first time Aetna cancelled me was in May.  May 14, 2014 to be exact. There was NO warning.  No phone call. No letter. No email. Nothing. I found out at CVS. I was trying to fill a prescription and the pharmacy tech told me my insurance was cancelled. For non-payment (BTW, my account was on AUTO-BILL to my credit card which was totally valid, LOL.)  Though it was seriously not funny.  We were days away from our bike trip to Croatia. Imagine if I’d had to spend the several hours over several days while in Croatia unraveling Aetna’s mistake (theirs, not mine) that led to them erroneously canceling my policy? Or worse, imagine if we’d gotten sick in Croatia and tried to explain that our health insurance really wasn’t cancelled?

But I was lucky. I found out about Aetna’s mistake before we left the country. So fix it we did, after many, many, many hours on the phone.

Turns out my credit card wasn’t being charged even though it was set up to be auto-billed to a valid credit card. The reason: Aetna’s flawed system didn’t hit my credit card with a charge – no invoice was being generated on their end because of a problem with how my husband’s part of the bill was created way back in December.

They promised it would be fixed.  But just to be sure, since auto-bill to credit card didn’t work, we switched to paper invoices.

Which I have NEVER ONCE received. Not one invoice in the mail, ever. And it’s not a U.S. Mail problem: post facto, I receive via U.S. mail both a cancellation notice AND a reinstatement notice (amusingly, I get them the same day).  And my address is correct.

It’s not a mailing problem. It’s an Aetna billing system problem.  The Aetna system shows they are creating/mailing a bill – but they do not.  So now, since both auto-pay AND U.S. Mail do not work to deliver an invoice, now I am forced to call at the beginning of each month to pay my monthly premium.

Because at least I am reliable. I enter it in my calendar and call. In fact, on June 3 at roughly 9:00 am I called Aetna to pay my June invoice (as usual, no mailed statement and the online invoice was wrong).  The customer service rep agreed with what I know I owed and I paid that amount on the phone. She then confirmed my payments were all current through June.

Then incredibly, at 2:33 that same afternoon, I got a phone message stating that my May payment (May!) was past-due and I was at risk of being cancelled.

THE SAME DAY I paid June and was confirmed that I was current through June, Aetna calls to tell me I am going to be cancelled.

At least this time they called.

Naturally, I called Aetna. A-freaking-gain I had to call Aetna to work things out. The rep said not to worry about that call about cancellation. She said she could see I was paid up – that both May and June were paid.  She confirmed I was current through JUNE and assured me they would not cancel me.

Then they cancelled me.

This is nearly fraud. I’m paying close to $1000/month and I am fully paid up and Aetna keeps canceling my policy.

It’s incredibly stressful.  I have spent HOURS, literally, on the phone.  I’ve been nice.  I’ve yelled.  I’ve asked to talk to a billing supervisor – to talk to any supervisor.  The supervisors can never come to the phone.  Two times the rep said they’d have a billing supervisor call me. We reviewed my phone number.  They promised the supervisor would call.  They do not. Ever. Call.

I have names and ID numbers galore of the customer service reps who promise they’ve escalated this issue. That it should have been fixed months ago.  That it will be fixed for the next invoice.



I know what the problem is.  An Aetna rep explained it to me back in January and I’ve explained to the Aetna reps I talk to every month.  It all traces back to the very beginning and that their system is not generating an invoice.  They agree that’s the problem.

They just can’t freaking fix it.

Aetna Incorrect Bill Screencap_0001Today, I confirmed once again with Aetna that I’m paid through July.  I asked, nicely, then why is my billing statement online STILL wrong. Why does it show that I owe $194o … and why does it show that I’ve been cancelled (circled on screen cap here.) And why can’t this be fixed? That I’d like to wait on the phone while it’s fixed.  Or get a call back that it is fixed.

This latest person – actually, I spoke with her  back in May also – tried to get a supervisor on the line and talked to billing and also to member benefits. She tried to help solve this vexing issue that has plagued me for 7 months now.  To no avail. Even after a 1 hour and 16 minute phone call (I timed it) to ensure I won’t be cancelled again, my bill is still wrong and I fear Aetna will cancel me. Though she assures me I won’t be cancelled again.

She was nice. She tried hard. But I don’t believe her. I just know that Aetna is going to cancel me for a third time because the problem clearly still exists.  The proof is right there, in that screen cap that shows I owe $1940 even though Aetna billing people and customer service people confirm I owe $0.

This has been seriously stressful – which is not good for my cholesterol.  Sure, there are many many more serious things that could happen to a person. But I have to say, this ranks up there.

Not only that, it’s reprehensible on the part of Aetna. I’m highly educated and have the time to spend hours with Aetna.  What about others who don’t have that luxury?

And what about the fact that this is likely raising my already high LDL (bad) cholesterol.

I’m tired of calling every month. I’ve tried to work within the system to get this fixed, and it hasn’t worked.  So now I’m ranting about how this is raising my cholesterol (sorry to my readers if this has been dull; but the message is that stress is bad for cholesterol, and you should try to reduce stress any way you can – for me, it’s been venting. Sorry, I’ll be back to more typical cholesterol topics next week!)

Mark Bertolini (@mtbert) according to your twitter profile, you “tweet about my work and my life experiences in health care.”  So I’m posting and tweeting and facebooking you about mine, sir.  Your organization has a serious billing issue. Please get someone at Aetna to stop canceling me when I’m fully paid up — and also fix my bill.  Please.



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