Screw you, Curascript. And as for Blue Cross? Inhumane, greedy, disgusting.

Obluecrossnce again, Blue Cross has created a new “tier” of pharmacy benefits – Tier 4, a.k.a. “specialty” drugs a.k.a. a long list of medications for the treatment of HIV (they’ve included a few cancer and other drugs as well – though literally every single medication used for the treatment of HIV is now Tier 4) and for which there are no alternative or generic medications.

And what is different about this tier? Well, rather than a standard co-pay (it was $30.00 per prescription in 2012), patients are required to pay 20% of the cost of the medication or $150 maximum. Since all of the medications are expensive, the bottom line is that most co-payments are $150 or close to it, i.e. a 400% increase in out-of-pocket expenses for those being treated for HIV. In other words, Blue Cross has specifically targeted their most vulnerable patients as a new source from which to wring profits. Despicable.

Oh, and that’s not all. As a user of a “specialty” medication, I am now forbidden from getting my prescriptions from Walgreens or any other pharmacy (unless I want to pay full retail price). I have to use Curascript and do all of my ordering via phone and mail – that’s right, no option to do anything online. Yes, patients are required to always speak to a pharmacy rep to deal with any transaction or issue. This seems counter-intuitive, given the expense of paying actual people to interact with customers over the phone and Express Scripts’ (Curascript’s parent, natch) focus on profits before patients – until one realizes that the frustrating and time-consuming nature of such a system is going to result in patients receiving their medications more slowly (or even giving up on Curascript altogether) thus positively impacting Curascript’s (and Blue Cross’) cash flow.

My initial sign-up took around 30 minutes – a frankly ridiculous amount of time, given that I’ve been taking the same meds daily for nearly a decade. But other than that, it was fine. But I knew better than to expect things to run smoothly…

Several days later, I received an automated voice call from Curascript advising me that my prescriptions were being processed; that they would be sent to me soon; and that no action was required on my part. Given that they’d already told me the date to expect the delivery and it was still several days hence, I have no idea what this call was for – it served only to mystify and irritate me, particularly given that it could have been sent by email. Oh, right – Curascript has no online or email functionality.

Another few days later, I received a voicemail message (UUUGGGGHHH) indicating I needed to call Curascript right away. Which I did. Apparently, the date they had promised to deliver was too soon for Blue Cross to pay, so they had to push the date out a week. No big deal – except for the fact that they kept me on the phone for 15 minutes, asking questions, putting me on hold, making me repeat information I’d provided during my first call and during the IVR when I returned their call. Absolutely infuriating – again, particularly given the fact that a simple email with the new delivery date would have been sufficient notification.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that my prescriptions were not delivered on Friday as promised. I received a voicemail from FedEx at 5:17PM, advising that my parcel would be delivered on Saturday and a signature was required. Since I’d had the package directed to my office (and had advised each Curascript rep that I spoke with of this fact), there was no one there to sign for it. Which is just a perfect way to start a three-day weekend. I did check the FedEx tracking – and despite promising to deliver on Feb 18, Curascript didn’t get the package to FedEx until the evening of Feb 18. Yeah, let me put on my surprised face again…

Oh, and then I contacted Curascript on Saturday morning. Things did not go well…

Robot: Please tell us your phone number so we can look up your account.
Me: (enters number via keypad)
Robot: You entered number 415-###-####. Is that correct?
Me: Yes.
Robot: I’m sorry, I’m having trouble understanding you.
Me: YES!
Robot: I’m sorry, I’m having trouble understanding you.
Robot: I’m sorry, let me transfer you to an agent.
Robot: Our business hours are Monday through Friday, 9AM to 7PM and Saturdays, 9AM to 1PM. Please call back during business hours.

What is most infuriating of all is that I have no choice but to accept this level of incompetence and indifference. My only option for insurance at work is Blue Cross, so I can’t take my business elsewhere. And, to be honest, I’m one of the lucky ones – that is, I have insurance (even though it is provided by a for-profit insurer who is actively pursuing policies to prevent those with the most serious health conditions from obtaining treatment) and I have the stamina, wherewithal and persistence to demand and obtain satisfaction. But again, Blue Cross and Express Scripts surely calculate a drop-off in claims and payments (and therefore an increase in profit) by going after a population of insured that includes people who are too ill or simply too baffled to get the treatment to which they are entitled.

It’s times like this that I have some regret about being an atheist – the thought of people like John Cannon (Well Point CEO), George Paz (Express Scripts CEO) and Pam Kehaly (Anthem Blue Cross California president) spending eternity in the lake of fire is an appealing one.

14 thoughts on “Screw you, Curascript. And as for Blue Cross? Inhumane, greedy, disgusting.

    1. Hey, thanks! Though don’t get me wrong – like I said, I realize I’m fortunate to have decent (if aggravating) health insurance and the persistence to manage my healthcare.

      1. I totally get it. I have a son with Autism. His medications are expensive and our BC/BS plan has high out of pocket deductibles. I’m happy to have insurance, but it still costs a fortune to get them all filled every month.

        1. Have you done any research on co-pay assistance from the pharmaceutical companies for the drugs your son uses? For HIV meds, there are a lot of programs that will help out with co-pay and are not based on the patient’s income. I don’t know if this is the case for the autism meds, but it might be worth looking into. I’m getting some significant reductions in my o.o.p. expenses thanks to Bristol-Meyers and Viiv. Granted, relying on the largesse of pharmaceutical companies isn’t an ideal long term solution to this problem – but I’ll participate in their programs as long as I’m eligible.

        2. We haven’t checked for him, but we had tried with my husband’s meds. From what I gathered, if you have insurance, you can’t be considered. I may be wrong. Will have to check it out again. 🙂 Thank you.

  1. Don’t know if you clicked through to the article I linked in OP – but Consumer Watchdog filed suit against Blue Cross last week for the recent changes to pharmacy benefits and illegally targeting HIV and AIDS patients. Blue Cross actually tried to implement this same change last year and then backed down. It was a pretty shocking thing to show up at my local pharmacy and be told my co-pay was $270 rather than the $50 it had been the year before.

  2. Is there a state insurance regulator or state rep you can complain to, or is that pointless? What an outrage, though I’m glad to here a lawsuit has been filed.

  3. Wow! That is exactly what happened to me. The contradictory phone calls, the long waits calling in…exactly the same. I ended up for almost a month without medication. Three times since I’ve had to use CuraScripts I have run out of medicine before more arrives. It’s silly, but I become terrified when the night sweats start after skipping a few days. A year into this CuraScript experiment I’ve received my lowest CD4 count ever…a 300 point drop. I almost started crying, but like you reminded myself I’m supposed to feel greatful that I am getting some treatment, even if its terrible. There are no doubt many who would love to have my problems. Sorry to be selfish, but if keeps dropping, I will cry. I’m also afraid of Anthem. If I raise hell my guess is I will lose my insurance. Hopefully Anthem saves lots of money up from holding back medication, they will need it when we start getting sick and become drug resistant. I hope someone out there is brave enough to bring a lawsuit and get this fixed before that happens. Good luck to you all…we are going to need it.

  4. Curascripts wanted to send me MUCH more than my doctor ordered of some very expensive drugs. They kept on cheerfully telling me I would only have to Pay $8 for 32 doses when I only was to receive 6! That was a several THOUSAND dollar discrepancy! Who Pays For That? I fought them tooth and toenail. Then i called State Teachers of Ohio, thinking that maybe they would be a bit put out for the extra charge. “Why don’t you call Curascript and complain?” was their answer? Then I called my doctor’s nurse who, after huffing and puffing a bit HAD MY PRESCRIPTION CANCELLED! Now Curascript is being set aside in favor of some company who does the same thing but has a different name (it starts with “a” as in asshole). Will things be better? Was everyone paid off here? if the client company and the hospital don’t care, do I have a chance that the State Attorney General of Ohio is going to give a fig? This is a circle jerk.

  5. OMG I could have written your post. Almost the same thing has been happening to me. It is so frustrating and irrating. People who get specialty medications on a regular basis( we don’t get it but for the fact we need to have it to manage our disaese processes.), are treated as second class citizens. They are happy to take the insurance companys money for the specialty meds but want to give poor service. Stupid system!

  6. I am going through this exact scenario right now. My last Stribild pill will be taken tomorrow and I have no idea if or when I will get my refill. At thus point I believe my only option is to go to a retail pharmacy. I am so frustrated and upset; I’ve made 14 phone calls thus far and gotten nowhere with Curascript.

  7. I have also had a terrible time trying to fill my prescription for MS. This is ridiculous. You’d think for the outrageous prices they are charging for our meds that you might actually be able to refill them in a timely fashion. I really wish there was another option myself. I spent a total of 30 minutes holding the other day, until my phone battery died. I am once again on hold right now and have been so for over 15 minutes. I have no confidence someone will eventually answer ….

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