Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tom Curtis re: STRS Fitness Center Membership Through Aetna Medicare Advantage

From Tom Curtis, December 20, 2011
Hello STRS Retirees,
Recently, I wrote about the Free Fitness Center Membership for Aetna Medicare enrollees. Aetna has contracted with a company called Healthways to administer this benefit for Medicare age retirees.
In my prior letter, I complained about the many hours I spent on the phone over a 3-day period attempting to get approval for a fitness center I was told was not on the approved list. I was told this by various people at Aetna and by one lady at STRS. I tried to reach Healthways, but after being placed on hold for the next available customer care person, no one ever answered their phone any of the 3 times I called them. Consequently, I was unable to verify the information with them.
Greg Nickell from STRS called me last week because he had read my prior letter on Kathie Bracy’s Blog and was highly concerned about what I had to say. He realized just how frustrated I had become. He offered to review the process and to check the next day with the North Canton YMCA to see if he could be of any assistance in getting this facility onto the listing of providers. Greg has always been very kind and considerate concerning any issue I have talked with him about.
The next day I went to the YMCA fitness center and handed them my Aetna card. They processed it with Healthways and offered me a free membership. They told me they had been approved for sometime now, but that due to the presence of a large hospital in my area (Mercy), they are never listed as a provider for this service. This is probably because Mercy Hospital offers a fitness membership at their facilities and Mercy tries to eliminate all of their competition. Their facilities have minimal equipment and facility usage compared to any other I visited.
I called Greg back the next day to pass along the above information and to let him know that most YMCA’s of Stark and Summit County accept Aetna’s fitness offering through Healthways.
I am ecstatic that I was able to receive a membership at the North Canton YMCA, which has about 3 times the offerings of equipment and facility as does any fitness program in this area. It is located 5 minutes from my home.
What I am very unhappy about is the amount of time I spend on the phone each week educating service providers like Aetna, STRS and Healthways about the services they provide. Employees are paid well and receive wonderful benefits to do their job, but often do not do their job for their customer. I do not get paid to do their job for them, but I am forced to do so to receive the benefits I am entitled to by utilizing their service. I face this problem day in and day out with many of the service providers I utilize (banks, doctor’s offices, government offices, etc.). This is sickening to me! If the customer doesn’t fight for the benefits they are supposed to receive, the company’s profit line improves and the customer goes without.
In today’s world, the customer is not being considered very well. We are often given misinformation by customer care representatives that are not knowledgeable about the services their company provides and are not willing to research the situation for the proper information. These representatives tell the customer what they believe to be the answer, or transfer the customer to another person that does not know the information either. This even happens when a supervisor is asked for and responds to a question. So, in the end, the customer has to become dogged to receive some of the benefits that are available to them. I am sure many retirees are not willing to do this. So the provider wins.
In closing, if you have been told a fitness center in your area is not on the approved list, do not believe it until you take your Aetna insurance card to that facility and ask them to see if they are accepted by Healthways. You, as I, may find that they will offer you a free fitness center membership.
Continuing to be a disgruntled retiree,
Tom Curtis
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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