Not How You Insure That You Get A New Customer

, , , , , | Working | June 18, 2020

I recently decided to shop around for new car insurance and filled out a form online to get a quote from [Large Insurance Company], but the page timed out and I didn’t get the quote.

A few hours later, an agent calls as I am walking out the door for work, so I ask them to call back later. The next day, they call again while I’m on my way to work.

Agent: “Hello, this is [Agent] from [Large Insurance Company]. Could I speak with [My Name]?”

Me: “This is her, but I’m actually on my way to work right now, so I can’t talk. You could call my husband and speak with him, though.”

Agent: “Okay, I’ll just call back later. Would this evening work?”

Me: “Umm… maybe? Why don’t you just call my husband right now? I can give you his number.”

Agent: “Oh, I’m not able to take down any numbers. I’ll just call back later. Or you can call us back. Here is our number so you can write it down. It’s [Number]. Did you need me to repeat that?”

Me: “Well, as I said, I’m on my way to work now, so I can’t take down your number, either. I guess just keep trying and maybe you’ll get lucky. Thanks.”

It’s not looking promising.

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Insurance Doesn’t Always Bleed You Dry

, , , , | Right | June 15, 2020

I work at a broking group which is situated next to a hospital. As we are situated so close together I often get people calling up asking for hospital appointments.

It’s my lunch break and I’m reading stories on Not Always Right to pass the time. My phone starts to ring.

Me: “Good afternoon, this is [My Name] from [Broking Group]. How may I help you?”

Caller: “Hello. Erm… yes. Can I please book an appointment for a blood test? Around next week?”

Me: “I’m very sorry, miss, but you’ve called [Broking Group], not [Hospital].”

Caller: *Pauses* “Where have I called?”

Me: “[Broking Group]. We’re next door to [Hospital].”

Caller: “Oh! Erm… what do you do?”

Me: “Insurance.”

Caller: “…”

Me: “…”

Caller: “Can you do my blood test?”

Me: “No. I cannot do blood tests.”

Caller: “Oh.”

The caller hangs up. I look over at my very amused boss.

Me: “This is going on Not Always Right when I go home.”

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You Can Tow A Horse To Water…

, , , , | Working | May 26, 2020

I work for a towing company that starts up in October 2016. This is exactly one day after it opens up, and all we offer right now is roadside assistance like jumpstarts and tire changes. We don’t have any tow trucks to drive quite yet, though we do have “Towing” in our company name. 

We’re also contracted with a large insurance company, and apparently this customer got a card from her insurance company that had our number on it for her roadside assistance program.

Me: “[Towing Company], how can I help you?”

Customer: “Hi. I’m calling ’cause I got into an accident. What do I do?”

Me: “Have you called your local police to report it?”

Customer: “Yes, but I need a tow.”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but all we provide is roadside assistance services like jumpstarts and lockouts. We aren’t capable of providing towing service. When the police arrive on scene, they can call you a tow truck.”

Customer: “Isn’t this [Towing Company]?”

Me: “Yes, but we don’t offer towing services yet. We still don’t have the permits or trucks to do so.”

Customer: “But my insurance gave me your number. It’s on my card. Are you calling [Insurance Provider] liars?”

Me: “No, but that number is probably there for more minor roadside inconveniences. If you had a flat tire, I could help you, but all I can suggest is that you wait for the police to arrive or to call your insurance provider and have them call you a tow truck.”

Customer: “I’m going to report you to [Insurance Provider] and make sure they never use your towing service again!” *Hangs up*

Me: “But we don’t even do towing.”

Towing started up a month later. We’ve never had that person on our records since as far as I could tell.

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That Is Not My Job!

, , , , , , , | Working | May 25, 2020

During a storm, a large piece of ice falls off the roof of our house, damaging the windshield and roof of my car. This happens on a Saturday night.

I call my insurance company to file my claim and get referred to a body shop. The shop they send me to is one of their approved/preferred partners. Part of my policy also covers a rental vehicle.

Monday morning, I have to work, so my mom drops the car off for me at the body shop. They ask her if she would like to pick up the rental car at that time. She says no, which is correct. The next day, the agent handling my claim calls to get more details about the incident and follow up.

He asks if I’ve sent the car to the shop yet and if I’ve gotten the rental car. I say yes, the car is at the shop, but because I have a work truck during the week, I am waiting until Friday afternoon to get the rental car. He says that’s no problem; I should just give the body shop a little notice and they’ll arrange it on the day I want to pick it up.

Fast forward to Friday. I get off work around 1:00 pm. I call the body shop to arrange the rental car as instructed. The woman that answers says I have to call the car rental company directly. Okay, no problem. That’s not what I was told, but maybe I misunderstood.

I call the rental company, and the gentleman gets me set up with no issues. That is, until he asks me for a reservation number that my insurance company should have given me. I explain that I never got one. He says that’s okay, I can still go get the car, but I should try to get the number before I get there.

As I’m leaving to walk over to the rental place, I call my insurance company to explain. I’m lucky enough to speak to the same agent that’s handling my claim — I called his direct line first but he was on another call.

I go over what just transpired and request the reservation number from him. He pauses for a moment and I can tell he’s frustrated. 

He says, “Really?! That’s part of their job! They’re one of our approved shops. They should have set that up for you. One moment, please.”

He puts me on hold for a few minutes. When he comes back to me, I’m about a minute away from the car rental place.

“I’ve set you up with a proper rental; your reservation number is [number],” the agent explains. “It may take a few minutes for it to show up in their system but it will be ready for you today. I’ve also sent an email to my superiors about this. It shouldn’t have happened. I’m sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.”

I tell him, “No, thank you for helping me sort this out. I’m sorry if I made it harder for you by trying to set up my own rental.”

“Not at all! You didn’t do anything wrong,” the agent says. “They shouldn’t have had you do that.”

We finish the call just as I walk into the car rental place. My rental car is already pulled out and waiting for me, and the staff there can’t have been more pleasant. I just wish the process had been easier.

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Insuring Instant Karma For One Dirty Agent

, , , , , , | Legal | May 16, 2020

I work in Medicare insurance, getting people coverage through part C and part D. My job has many, many rules, and serious consequences for breaking them. One caller’s situation stands out.

She called in the middle of February, distraught, because another agent had called her and signed up for a new plan. 

This — in the first minute of the call — was my first red flag. It is illegal for a Medicare insurance agent in Wisconsin to cold call anyone, as well as to enroll them in a new insurance plan on an outbound call; agents can only ever enroll people who called them.

After sign-up, she’d run into trouble getting her prescriptions refilled, so she’d wanted to talk to her agent again. She’d spent more than a week trying to get in touch with him and had eventually found my number, thinking that my office was Medicare itself.

My office’s name does have Medicare in the title, but we always immediately clarify that we do not work for the government.

My workplace has an unusual approach to callers: no matter what they called about, spend at least ten minutes helping and continue to help for as long as they need. We are a sales office, but we’re paid hourly and our commission is negligible in order to support this behavior.

I start asking questions and track down the plan she’s been signed into. My first bit of good news is that it’s a plan that I’m contracted with; I can pull up the full contract and can figure out the answers to every one of her questions, but with every question she asks, my internal alarm bells chime a little louder.

Insurance agents are supposed to be responsible to their customers. Whoever this other agent was, he left her not knowing most of what she needed to know; he’d effectively bullied her into changing and then left her high and dry.

The medicine issue was actually coincidental; I told her what she needed to tell her pharmacist to clear things up but asked her to stay on the line and answer a few more questions, and I checked to make sure her family doctor was in the network of her new plan.

He was not, and the other agent had not even told her that changing plans would have restricted her from seeing him. This could have cost her thousands of dollars!

That medication issue that sent her to me saved her from an untold amount of hassle. The plan change could only go into effect at the beginning of the next month; the new plan wasn’t in place yet, and we could overwrite or cancel it just by submitting the paperwork.

I did one last piece of digging. Election periods are the times of year that a person is allowed the opportunity to change their coverage. If this other agent had submitted a change, what had he used? He hadn’t mentioned this to my caller at all. A quick rundown of options left only one answer. The other agent had used an election period called OEP to change her coverage.

OEP is effectively an emergency exit at the start of the year for when someone finds out that their plan is not suitable to their needs. Agents are prohibited from advertising or even mentioning OEP on calls; the customer must request a change or express distress before OEP can be brought up. Using OEP without the customer knowing or even understanding what was being done? Egregious.

So, I go through the paperwork with her and get her signed back into the plan that she had originally, and I give her the appropriate phone numbers to check up with her plan to ensure that she won’t have any trouble. But before we disconnect, I have one final errand for her.

I give her the phone number of the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of Wisconsin: the regulating body responsible for cracking down on bad insurance agents.

Let’s run it down, shall we?

Cold-calling a Medicare insurance customer, uninvited? $25,000 fine. Per person, if he’s called others.

Enrolling her on an outbound call, willfully signing her up into an unsuitable plan, and abusing OEP? Forfeiture of license, along with twice the value of any money they hoped to gain by doing this, plus a $5,000 fine and up to three years in prison. 

That’s three counts of it, mind you, so up to six times the money he tried to make, a $15,000 fine, and nine years in prison, and probably being banned from insurance work in the United States for life.

If he’s done it to one innocent old woman, he’s probably done it to others. I will never know the fallout from the case, but knowing the tools at the Commissioner’s fingertips, I’m reasonably confident I got a swindler his comeuppance.


This story was featured in our May 2020 roundup!

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