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Careers: Aetna’s Personal Branding Hall of Shame

Ouch.Ouch.Ouch. That’s the sound of my body hurting from the wounds inflicted by Aetna. Undoubtedly, health insurance companies are the worst personal branders in the world. As a small business owner I have the privilege of trolling through the treacherous offices of the healthcare system. There should be a sign emblazoned on the doors of companies like Aetna: Proceed at your own caution. Numerous folks have lost their sanity dealing with us.

Ouch.Ouch.Ouch. That’s the sound of my body hurting from the wounds inflicted by Aetna.

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Undoubtedly, health insurance companies are the worst personal branders in the world. As a small business owner I have the privilege of trolling through the treacherous offices of the healthcare system. There should be a sign emblazoned on the doors of companies like Aetna: Proceed at your own caution. Numerous folks have lost their sanity dealing with us.

Or at least I’m about to go to the loony bin with my experience with my insurer Aetna. At the beginning of the year, my initial quote with Aetna for insurance for myself was bumped $75 a month because – shame on me — I take a vitamin pill –an iron supplement. The insurer claimed my rate was being increased because my taking an iron supplement implied I had anemia, when in fact I don’t. I immediately appealed the rate increase and waited to have it readjusted. Two months passed and nothing — not a peep from Aetna. When I called the insurer, I was told they did not have my appeals forms. I had to practically go down on my hands and knees to get Aetna to agree to my resubmitting forms that they apparently lost.

Another month passes and again nothing — not a peep from Aetna. So I call again this time to be told that the letter from my doctor stating I don’t have anemia is not sufficient. They need copies of all my medical records. Why of course I wasn’t told that off the bat is another story. And here’s the clincher: I’m told I missed the cut off for my appeal because Aetna never got my original appeal forms. Driven one step closer to the loony bin, I spoke with a supervisor multiple times to get him to agree to let me continue the appeals process.

So following Aetna’s instructions, my doctor sent pages and pages of medical records to Aetna to pour over. A week ago I received a form letter from Aetna denying my appeal. The letter didn’t even have a signature. Instead it said:

Sincerely,

Individual Underwriting
The Aetna Advantage Plans
For Individual and Families Team

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The letter also provided no explanation of why I was denied. When I called Aetna, I was told I was shot down not because I have anemia but because I take a prescription iron supplement, which my doctor prefers to an over the counter one. Because I have a very high deductible policy, I pay for the supplement out of pocket. Apparently, if I take an inferior supplement, I can reduce my payments.

Not one to give up, I spoke with a supervisor, who refused to give me her full name. She implied that I was a health hazard to Aetna since I take a vitamin supplement. I then left multiple messages for her supervisor, whom I was referred to and who never had the courtesy to return any of my calls.

I may now be certifiable but I have not given up. Next step is a letter I am sending to Ron Williams, the CEO and President of Aetna about this craziness. I will also be sending a copy to the health commissioner of my state, Connecticut. Let’s see if Mr. Williams at least has the courtesy of responding. I will keep you posted. In any case, this is a textbook case on how to ruin your brand. And, if anyone else has their own health insurer horror stories, I’d love to hear them!

Wendy Marx,wendy@marxcommunications.com, Personal Branding and PR Specialist, Marx Communications.

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About the author

Wendy Marx is President of Marx Communications, an award-winning boutique B2B Public Relations agency known for turning companies and executives, including start-ups, into thought leaders. Follow her on Twitter @wendymarx and on Google+ @ plus.google.com/+wendymarx.

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