Washington Healthplanfinder FAIL

When automatic payments go seriously wrong.

I usually get email while traveling and generally keep up with anything important. Although I wasn’t surprised to get an email from Washington Healthplanfinder, my health insurance agent here in Washington State, to say that my monthly payment had been automatically withdrawn from my account, I was surprised at the amount:

Withdrawal Confirmation

Note the amount: $1,116.15. My monthly premium is $375.14.

I immediately called Washington Healthcarefinder. After pressing numbers to navigate through four different menus — just to ask a billing question — and waiting five minutes on hold, a typical script-reading customer service representative answered. I told her about the problem. After asking for various information to assure I was who I said I was, she read a script that told me that emails had gone out in error. She asked if my bank had processed the withdrawal.

I admitted I hadn’t checked, and whipped out my iPad to check with my bank’s app while she was still on the phone. The transaction had not been processed.

She read another script that assured me that it wouldn’t be processed. That it was just the email that was an error. I suggested that if this was a widespread problem that an email should go out to notify subscribers of the error. She didn’t have a script for that so she didn’t have anything to say. I hung up.

Two days later, on Wednesday, I got an email from my bank confirming a withdrawal from Washington Healthcare Finder:

Withdrawal Confirmation

Note the amount: $1,116.15.

I just about went ballistic. I called the bank to have the charge reversed and was told that I’d have to fill out a series of forms to get the process started.

Washington Healthcare Finder’s offices were still closed that early, but later in the day, I managed to get yet another idiotic, script-reading customer service representative on the phone. I was not kind, especially when her script informed me that the process could take several days while their accounting department researched the problem. There was lots of time wasted on hold, which further pissed me off. When she got back on the phone, I told her that their error had cost me more than an hour of my time with two calls to them and one to my bank. I asked if I would be getting compensated for my time. She said they wouldn’t compensate me for my time, but they’d “compensate me for the overcharge.”

“That’s not compensation,” I roared over the phone. “That’s a refund for your freaking error!”

Because she obviously didn’t understand the difference, she had nothing to say. I hung up.

But not before I demanded that she turn off automatic payments for my account.

Later yesterday morning — yes, two days after the initial email about the incorrect amount went out, I got this:

Notice of Error

Is there any way they could have screwed this up more?

I’m fortunate in that I had enough money in my account to cover this unexpected withdrawal. Other people who routinely carry smaller checking account balances would likely bounce checks to other payees, setting up a nighmarish experience of explaining the problem for every bounced check and getting overdraft fees reversed. Hours of a person’s time could be wasted on this.

I recently set up automatic withdrawals for a number of organizations I do business with. It should make it easy to pay on time without any additional effort. But I’m going to re-think that strategy and make my payments through my bank’s billpay feature. This puts absolute control in my hands and would certainly prevent something like this from happening again.

10 thoughts on “Washington Healthplanfinder FAIL

  1. This is nuts. Sorry this happened.

    Years ago I set up automatic payments through my bank’s billpay feature so I can monitor and manage them all directly through my bank and in one spot. That’s a HUGE help for me. The companies send whatever they do to my bank — and yes, I do get bills sent to my email, too, along with alerts from my bank.

    Having a central place to manage all my bills is key to keeping my finances as easy as possible to manage. My bank’s billpay feature is fantastic. There are only one or two companies that don’t participate, and for them I set up manual electronic payments through my bank, too.

  2. I have automatic payments setup, but instead of connecting things to a checking account, I connect them to a credit card which I pay off in full monthly. The reason being is that credit cards will settle a dispute much more efficiently than the banks will, crediting you for the disputed amount immediately, and then settling with the company who pushed the charge. Additionally, many credit cards offer additional benefits/coverages when certain bills are paid with them. For example, my credit card provides a cell phone replacement (up to $600 for $25 deductible) for free as long as the cell bill is paid on the credit card.

    I also use only credit cards (never debit) online for the additional protection you get.

  3. I also have all bills possible paid by credit card and rewards do add up quickly. Some companies don’t accept automatic credit card payments so then, in my case, it is paid automatically by the bank. The bank sends out e-mail notices, which I wish they didn’t unless it was for some unusual amount . I’ve done this for at least 23 years and never had a single problem. I say this only as encouragement to those whose banks do not provide a bill-paying service.

  4. You don’t even want to get me started with Washington Health Plan Finder issues!!!!! I spent 20 -30 (probably a lot more) hours on the phone over the course of 3 months to get things straightened out on my “new” health plan for Jan 2015, which was the same as my previous year’s, and had January already paid for on time. Still, I get a notice from the insurance carrier that my coverage was cancelled. The website was all messed up for about 6 weeks, not allowing me to “re-enroll” (blocking this option out), which I thought was resolved through a (long) phone call with one of the WA HPF reps. They did not sign me up even though I thought they had. THEN, after following up on all of this in late Dec, I was told that I couldn’t get coverage for Jan because I hadn’t paid – although I DID pay for it in Dec and they had my money! Don’t even want to go into more of the absolutely ridiculous chain of details, nor the number of calls with reps during a time that I had absolutely no available time (going through student teaching and 17 graduate school credits….) I finally managed to get it all resolved, although I never did have coverage for Jan, and they started to say I couldn’t get coverage until March because by this time it was after Jan 23rd, the deadline for Feb payments. Somehow, after insisting on talking to supervisors and the proper channels, it got straightened out. I am SOOOOO not a fan of this process!!!!! Cannot even begin to explain how much…

    Oh, and by the way, through this “service”, you can do auto payments only through checking/savings accounts. I only do ones on my credit card, as Duncan mentioned, gives me much better support in the case of transaction issues. This agency will accept monthly payments on credit cards, but you have to enter them in each month, not automatically. That alone has really pissed me off for the last year…. It is just ridiculous! But glad my persistence finally got things where they should have been BACK IN DECEMBER when I initially was setting up the “new” insurance for 2015. Unbelievable!

    What is the line? “Hello, this is Washington Health Plan Finder. I am here to provide you excellent service. What can I do for you today?” I wanted to say “Got to Hell” on several occasions – but I am just too “nice” to do that!

    So, I truly feel your pain and disgust, Maria!!!!

What do you think?