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Read Making a Killing

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NEWS RELEASE
May 03, 2005


CONTACT: Jerry Flanagan, (310) 392-0522 ext. 319

Consumer Alert: What To Do if You Are One of the 46,786 Blue Cross Enrollees Who Received Overcharges

A consumer group today released 4 Tips for Blue Cross of California members whose bank accounts and credit cards were inappropriately overcharged two, three or even five times the premiums they owed in April.

Blue Cross overcharged 46,786 enrollees who pay their monthly premium through a direct withdrawal from their checking account or automatic charge on their credit cards. In addition to requiring immediate refunds, and payments for other costs incurred by enrollees, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) called on the Department of Managed Health Care which oversees Blue Cross to levy a fine against the company and include the issue in an upcoming public hearing. For more information go to: http://consumerwatchdog.org/healthcare/pr/pr005011.php3

Irene Arnold of Stockton, whose bank account was debited 5 times her monthly premium, first brought the overcharges to public attention. The $888 overcharge was not refunded to Ms. Arnold's bank account for nearly 2 weeks -- following more than 20 hours Ms. Arnold spent calling Blue Cross and her local bank.

FTCR provided the following 4 Tips for resolving the overcharges and reminded consumers to keep detailed notes including the times that calls were made and the names of those to whom they spoke.

1. Call the State Regulator

Call the Department of Managed Health Care HMO Help Center at 1-888-HMO-2219 and tell them that you are one of the 46,786 Blue Cross members who were overcharged.

DMHC needs this information in order to ensure that Blue Cross provides full refunds, pays for late fees and other costs incurred by Blue Cross members, and turns over any interest the company obtained on the misappropriated funds.

2. Call Blue Cross

Call Blue Cross at (800) 333-0912. You will be asked for your member ID number which can be found on the front of your Blue Cross membership card. Next, you will be asked why you are calling -- choose "Billing or Membership" information.

Once you're talking to the right person, give the date of the bill and explain the problem in detail. Make sure the person you're talking with has a copy in front of him or her -- so they can see the problem and make the correction right away. Make sure you write down the names of each person you speak with, and what they say.

3. If You Have a Problem, Ask for a Supervisor

Never accept poor performance or rude behavior from the person with whom you are speaking, no matter who he or she is. All too frequently, either because of poor training or bad judgment, corporate employees forget that without you, the consumer, they're out of business.

If you have trouble with the person you speak to -- if they appear uninterested in your problem, or refuse to help, or don't know how to help -- ask politely to speak with their supervisor.

Be polite but very firm when you speak to supervisors. Make sure you explain why you asked to speak with them, and indicate your displeasure at the poor performance of the person you spoke with before. Let them know you intend to do everything necessary to resolve the problem -- and expect the same from them.

4. Provide Your Comments, Attend the Public Hearing

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) has asked that the overcharges issue be added to the agenda of an upcoming public meeting to investigate Blue Cross rate increases in the wake of the company's recent merger with Anthem. FTCR encourages Blue Cross members -- and others concerned about the high cost of health care -- to send written comments to the DMHC about the overcharges and any Blue Cross rate increases and to attend the public meeting in Sacramento on Friday, May 13.

Public comments must be submitted no later than May 11th to the California Department of Managed Health Care, Attention: Debra Monier, by e-mail to dmonier@dmhc.ca.gov; by fax to (916) 322-2579; or by mail to 980 9th Street, Suite 500, Sacramento, CA, 95814.

FTCR requests that a copy of comments be sent to overcharge@consumerwatchdog.org; by fax to (310) 392-8874; or by mail to Attention: David Fink, 1750 Ocean Park Blvd. Suite 200, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Call FTCR at: (877) 791-2225 ext. 320

The public hearing will be held on Friday, May 13th at 10:00am at: the Joe Serna Jr. Cal/EPA Headquarters Building, Byron Sher Hearing Room, 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814.

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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is California's leading consumer advocacy organization.

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