BlueCross BlueShield customers faced with bank overdrafts

Published 6:37 pm Monday, January 11, 2016

Some Beaufort County residents got an unwelcome surprise last week with substantial overdrafts on their bank accounts.

A technical issue with BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina’s system caused the wave of incorrect overdrafts for some of its Affordable Care Act customers.

About 3,200 customers across the state were impacted, but less than a quarter of those had received refunds as of Saturday, according to a press release.

One of those affected by the mistake is Washington resident Susan Sizemore, who said $750 was wrongly drafted from her account.

She said she was asked to call a 1-800 number to have the insurance company check her account, but after being on hold for two hours each day for two days, she decided to go a different route.

Sizemore then reported the incident to her bank as fraud to get a pair of eyes on the account as soon as possible, and the bank was able to give her a provisional refund until the incident is sorted out.

“I am the type of person who the (ACA) market place is developed for,” she said, describing herself as self-employed, and thus, on her own with straightening out the mess. “I don’t have a group that I belong to or can belong to.”

Regarding the long wait times, the press release stated: “Several factors have come together to cause the backlog, including changing deadlines during open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act and our company’s transition to a new customer service system. We are experiencing customer call volumes 400 percent – 500 percent higher than last year, which has strained our systems beyond the extra capacity we had planned for this busy time of year.”

As of Friday, Sizemore said BlueCross BlueShield did not have a timeframe for when the problem would be corrected, but the company has since said the money will be refunded fully by the end of this week.

“The difficulties that many of our customers who purchased their own health insurance faced this week are unacceptable, and we are truly sorry for this experience,” BlueCross BlueShield President and CEO Brad Wilson said in the release. “I was able to speak personally to several customers and understand the hardship this has caused. Although less than 1 percent of our 3.8 million customers in North Carolina have been impacted, one is too many.”

Wilson said customer service hours were extended this past weekend to handle the influx of calls.

Although the insurance company is working to correct the problem, Sizemore said she still worries about those who may not have been able to pay their bills because of the overdraft and are still facing those repercussions.

“I feel like $750 is just stolen from me,” she said. “I know that I’m not the only one who (is) affected.”

For assistance, call BlueCross BlueShield customer service at 1-800-446-8053. Phone lines are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.