Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid battles with PMI admin

Just when I thought it was safe to turn on my computer, I get a nasty email. Then, ping ping, as if nastiness has gone viral, I get a whole slew of them. They are all about the same thing: our private medical insurance (PMI) cover.

One thing you can say for our employees, they know their rights and they know how to follow them up. Vigorously. For some obscure reason, many people have suddenly had their claims refused by our provider. I can’t understand why. Finally, one of the employees tells me what the contact at Bumpi Private Health actually said. They said they hadn’t been paid. Ah.

Confessions of a benefits manager

I look back at my emails to see when I passed the invoice for payment. I can’t find anything. My heart stops for a second. Could I have missed it? Is this all my fault? Continuing to look, I can’t find any record of an invoice. I can find the agreement, and all the emails leading up to the appointment of this new vendor, but no, I can’t find an invoice. I’ll have to phone Bumpi.

Actually, I start with Smarmy Consulting as it helped set up the arrangement in the first place, but it is quick to point out that matters of payment are between Bumpi and us. Thanks. Does it have a contact number I can use? Yes, I can use the main helpline. Uff. I am going to have to fight my way through a call centre just like a mere employee.

In its corporate brochure, Bumpi thoroughly bigs up its customer service efficiency. It boasts that all calls are answered within 30 seconds, and all claims handled within 24 hours. Well, the call is answered by a voice recognition system, which wants to know if I am making a claim or following up on one. I don’t want to do either, but there is no third option. I go for following up. A robotic voice then asks me to input a customer number using my keypad. I try the scheme number but the robot doesn’t accept that, and tersely asks me to enter it again.

After several attempts, the robot finally offers to put me through to a customer service representative. The customer service representative asks for my customer number. I don’t have a customer number, I explain, because I am enquiring about the scheme as a whole. I have a scheme number. They advise me they are unable to discuss any claims without a customer number. Well, if this person represents customer service, I represent a solid work ethic. Aaagh.

I ask to speak to the manager, but they are not falling for that. I can speak to a manager if I can provide my customer number. As I am a member of the scheme myself, it is tempting to go and find my own number but I have a feeling that will only confuse matters further.

I go back to Smarmy Consulting and insist it gives me a name of someone I can speak to about my account. Our account manager is equally surly, growling that we have not filled in one of the forms properly and that is why it hasn’t sent us an invoice. So, why have we been put on stop? Because we haven’t paid our premium. How on earth can it expect us to pay a premium if we haven’t been charged for it. I can practically hear the man shrug. I ask him what form I need to complete. He doesn’t know the details and I’ll have to contact customer services to find out. I can feel my heart rate going up. I will have my own medical claim before long. I beg him to put me through to the right person. Just don’t make me call the helpline again. Anything but that.

A manager in customer services picks up and I have to go through the whole story again. I am left on hold while he pulls up the file. We haven’t confirmed the excess for a group of our employees so it doesn’t know how much to charge us. Why didn’t anyone ask us? I’m sure I can hear another shrug.

Why? I want to shriek. None of our employees have insurance excess, so why would they think that another group of our employees would? You would think in this digital age, such box-ticking bureaucracy would be reduced, but it feels like it is getting worse. Error messages sit in exception folders waiting to be resolved, and no human cares if they are resolved or not as long as the metrics are met.

I fix the question of excess, so an invoice can be raised, and we can pay them, but all that is going to take another few weeks. Meanwhile, can it take us off stop? I have sick employees to consider, and also my own stress levels. The account manager has to ask someone else, but eventually comes back giving us the all clear. He is quite unpleasant about it all the same. Sometimes I wonder how people in customer-facing roles manage to stay employed when they are so rude. Next time the scheme comes up for renewal, we will be looking at another supplier, that’s for sure.

I go back to our employees and let them know they can proceed with their claims now. I pity the poor souls who have to go through that helpline when they are already feeling poorly. I should imagine it could put a few employees off claiming altogether. Still, trying to look on the bright side: that can only help our claims experience.

Next time… Candid asks for a rise.