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Entries in Anthem Blue Cross (2)

Thursday
Sep222011

Woman Uninsured After Paying with Credit Card

PRNewsFoto/Blue Cross and Blue Shield(LOS ANGELES) -- Health insurer Anthem Blue Cross, based in California, announced this year it no longer allows monthly automatic online bill payments, attracting complaints from longtime customers. And consumer finance watchers warn this may be one of the first of many cases of merchants reigning in credit card use.

Anthem Blue Cross initially announced it was charging a $15 convenience fee on credit card payments in the spring, much to the dismay of policyholders accustomed to auto-paying with credit cards.

A spokesman said at the end of May the company first notified customers by mail of the surcharge but waived that fee indefinitely within a week. He said customers were informed they could no longer make auto-payments via credit, and calls were made to policyholders who were still paying premiums by recurring credit card each month reminding them of the restriction.

He said the outbound calls reminded policyholders of the other payment options, including automatic checking deduction, online bill payment, payments by mail, and one-time payments, with no fee until further notice, through customer service. Anthem now offers for free an automated telephone payment option to make a one-time credit card payment, according to the spokesman.

Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director of the Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, said Anthem did a "terrible" job informing customers of the change though credit card companies are "part of the problem."

"The fees they impose on companies that collect credit cards is very high," he said, saying a credit card company can charge three percent.

Though Mierzwinski said no consumer group would advocate for a merchant to surcharge customers for using a credit card. The Federal Reserve capped debit card fees for merchants at 21 cents for each transaction, after initially proposing a cap of seven to 12 cents in December.

Lynda Gledhill, spokeswoman for the California attorney general's office, could not comment about Anthem but said California law prohibits private companies from requiring a credit card payment surcharge from customers, though they can offer discounts if paying with cash.

Beverly Harzog, credit card expert at Credit.com, said consumers should be aware if merchants limit or no longer accept credit card payments to try to decrease the transaction fees.

"When I see something like this, it's not long before I see similar situations," she said. "Accepting credit card payments is a little more expensive. Given how the economy has been, my guess is other companies may try to trim expenses."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun212011

Anthem Blue Cross Settles Class-Action Suit 

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- California's largest for-profit health insurer has agreed to settle a lawsuit involving 120,000 policyholders.  Anthem Blue Cross agreed to terms requiring the company to cap rate increases for its customers.

Policyholders impacted by the suit will also now be able to change plans without review of their medical history, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Consumer watchdog groups alleged that Anthem Blue Cross forced existing customers to accept dramatic rate increases without alternative options, which is required according to California law.  They also accused the company of closing out certain plans to new customers.

Anthem Blue Cross Monday announced plans to reduce the July 1 rate increases by half to just three percent for almost 18,000 policyholders at small businesses, reports the Times.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio