I Hate the 21st Century

January 13, 2010 at 3:26 am | Posted in My Fascinating Mood, The Heath Care System | 2 Comments

Volcano eruption

My skull after a week wrangling with CVS pharmacies.

I lost my temper yesterday.

It all began when my company shifted its prescription plan to CVS/Caremark. When I called to transfer the first of several prescriptions, the pharmacy assistant informed me flatly that all transfers take at least two business days. She offered no apology and no explanation, just a blanket statement in a rude tone.

I told her the name of the medication I needed, and she said, “We don’t have that in stock. We’ll have to order it.”

“How long will that take?

“One business day.”

Fine. A few days later I called to confirm that the prescription was ready; yes, they said, come on over. When I got to the pharmacy, of course it wasn’t ready. It never is.

Fine. Once the technician filled the prescription, she discovered that I would need prior authorization, which meant faxing forms to my doctor’s office. Since my shrink’s office sometimes can’t even be bothered to return emergency phone calls, this seemed to bode ill. I asked the pharmacy tech if I would need prior authorization each month. “I don’t know.” I would have to transfer several prescriptions; how could this be done efficiently? Oh, one at a time. To her credit, she suggested that I call her with a list of medications so that she could “guess” which ones might require prior authorization.

Fine. The pharmacy promised to call me if they had any trouble reaching my doctor’s office. I called the next day to see if my doctor’s receptionist had gotten the forms. Of course, she hadn’t. I phoned the pharmacy to make sure they had the correct fax number. They didn’t. I asked them again to fax the forms. Then I got a call late in the day from my doctor’s office; they had called several times to ask about the forms, but of course they still hadn’t come. If I wanted my medication, I would have to drive across town during rush hour to pick up samples.

At this point I was getting pretty steamed, and things were not fine. After a nine-hour day at work, I hammered over to my shrink’s office, managing to remain polite as I waited. I thought, OK, enough is enough, I’m going to visit the pharmacy personally and watch while they fax the forms over.

I admit that by the time I go there, I was spoiling for a fight. I told the pharmacy tech (or perhaps pharmacist) what had happened, and he said he had faxed the forms over first thing in the morning, and that prior authorizations always take four to seven business days, something that they hadn’t bothered to mention earlier. Honestly, I didn’t care whether he screwed up or my doctor’s office did. I watched as they faxed over the forms, then demanded (pretty obnoxiously) that they fill the prescription by 4:30 p.m. the next day or call my cell phone and work phone with an explanation.

“Prior authorizations always take four to seven business days.”

“Fine, say that when you leave a message tomorrow.”

“I faxed it over this morning.”

“I don’t believe you.”

By now I was creating a scene, which was part of my intention. I wanted to shame him and CVS in front of other customers. After a few more nasty exchanges, he told me that I would have to transfer my prescription to another CVS. Which would naturally take several more days.

He was polite, but I was ready to throttle him. In fact, to paraphrase Caligula, if CVS had one neck, I would strangle it.

Here’s what I hate, hate, hate: I have to watch over every step of the process to make sure that each person does his or her job. I have to hold everybody’s hand all along, and in the end, it takes several days to fill a prescription that Target would have gotten to me in an hour with a smile. CVS is almost certainly cheaper for my company because they have abysmal customer service; I have yet to find out if it will be cheaper for me. Every time I called either place, before I could be connected to a human being, I had to listen to an interminable voice mail message packed with extraneous information. Nether system offers callers the option of skipping the message.

Another example of life in the 21st Century: the insurance company that provides my homeowner’s and auto insurance recently sent me a letter that made it clear that they had no idea that I’d bought a home. They didn’t have the correct address on file, and the policy was written as a renter’s policy. I specifically called my agent two weeks before I closed in April to change to a homeowner’s policy, but they had no record of these conversations. Getting everything set up again involved a series of maddening calls to an 800 number. I had to talk to a machine that, of course, understood little of what I said. When I finally got a human being, he was, God bless him, unable to grasp what had happened. In the end, I had to call my agent again and email further forms.

And that’s why I hate this new century. My job consists almost entirely of either prodding other people to do their jobs or rushing to make deadlines because of their interminable foot-dragging. I spend most of the day locked to a computer screen drumming my fingers while our web-based product data management system creepingly loads each page. When I’m at work, I send endless emails and voicemails, and talk to an assortment of machines. Even a simple password reset takes five days and phone calls to four different people, each of whom denies that their department can do password resets. One poor guy told me that he had been locked out of the system and was involved in a pitched battle to get access to a system that he had partly administered for six years.

This is the do-it-yourself century. The prevailing idea of “customer service” is a set of menu options ending with an order to fill out a form or transfers to three different departments; in other words, corporations treat you as an unpaid drone, sending you on a series of maddening, time-wasting errands, presumably in the hopes that you will never ask that “service providers” do anything other than extract monthly fees from your checking account.

OK, rant over. I leave you with this thought: how could anyone nourish the illusion that our current medical system offers anything resembling “choice,” and that companies with a profit motive are doing a better job than the government would? So I say, single payer for all!

Love to all.

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2 Comments »

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  1. Yes, it’s almost touching how some naive people think gub’mint bureaucracy is bound to be worse than indifferent or incompetent corporate behavior. Here’s hoping they get that health care bill passed, flawed though it may be at present. I would have been in favor of something like Medicare for Everyone, but no such luck.

  2. This is my favorite post so far.
    I know exactly how you feel. Except for the prescription thing. At my last job I would have projects completed months in advance only to be done right at the wire because others could not get me there part of the project. Then I would be handling 85% of the work load of a 3 person team because the others moved slower than molasses in winter. Not to mention I seemed to have more free time than the others. Then the whole department got laid off and the work out sourced to china. Off course the company did not know how much work I did because the art director was in on the scam giving me his work as well.
    P.S.
    By the way the computer never runs fast enough for me to do my job efficiently.


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