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KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, January 25, 2008

What Were They Thinking?

If you intend to use the services of the U.S. drugstore chain Rite Aid, you might want to be aware of something really stupid that at least some of the stores in the chain do. This is what I just e-mailed to the company:
I'm concerned about something that I'm told is store policy and may be company policy.

On January 25, 2008, I went to store #XXXXX and dropped off several medication prescriptions to be filled. I handed the woman behind the pharmacy counter (I don't know if she was a technician or a pharmacist) my health-insurance ID card. I said that I would return the next morning to pick up my medications. I expected that she would record my insurance information and give my card back to me. However, she told me that it was store policy to keep insurance cards until customers pick up their medications, in case problems arise and the cards are needed for a double-check. I left the store with my card in her keeping, but it occurred to me later in the evening that such a policy puts customers and Rite Aid at risk.

What if I were to have a myocardial infarction or some other medical emergency overnight and was unable to produce my health-insurance card at the local hospital emergency department? After all, I am 48 and have several risk factors, including a strong family history of heart disease, for myocardial infarction. Would I be denied life-saving care? Now, I do have other family members who are covered by the same health-insurance policy, so one of them could produce their own card, from which the hospital could track down my insurance information. But what about someone who has no family and lives alone? Who would know about that person's insurance details to tell the hospital? Who would know that that person's insurance card was sitting in some local Rite Aid's pharmacy with the person's prescription medication?

I strongly suggest that Rite Aid consult its attorneys about the risk to customers of such a foolish policy—and about the risk of wrongful-death lawsuits filed by customers' families.
When I called the store back after getting home and before e-mailing the corporation, I asked why the pharmacy couldn't just photocopy my card. I was told that the store didn't have a photocopier and that if questions about insurance coverage arose and the card wasn't on hand, the prescriptions wouldn't be filled until the pharmacy could have me bring my card back again. I told the pharmacist that I wanted my card back and that my husband was out and about on errands of his own, so he'd be dropping by to get the card. They had my meds ready when he showed up.

If I get a response of any value from the corporation, I'll post it.

Updated 11:05 a.m., 1/27/08: I got an answer, by e-mail, from the chain's local district manager:
Thank you for contacting us and letting us know about your experience at our East Setauket location. Your concern is valid. We will speak with the staff at this location, and look into recording pertinent information from the insurance card while our patients are still in our pharmacy, as to not have our patients leave the pharmacy without it. We want all of our patients to feel comfortable about their experiences at our locations, as well as develop a trusted relationship with the staff. I apologize for the experience you had, and thank you for taking the time [to inform us about] your visit and allowing us to address the issue. We look forward to seeing you again, and if there is anything further I can assist you with, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you, and have a great day.
I have to drop off another prescription at that store today. It'll be interesting to see what they want to do with my card.

Updated 4:49 p.m., 1/28/08: My husband dropped off another prescription for me today. The person behind the pharmacy counter handed back my health-insurance ID card, no questions asked. I guess the problem's resolved, at least at the Rite Aid near me.


Dick Margulis said...

I wonder if the practice is even legal. I mean it goes without saying that it's disrespectful of customers and thus bad policy. But I wonder what state law has to say on the subject.

There's a dynamic in corporate America, though, that's been developing over the last thirty years, in which the lawyers say, "You can't do that," and the MBAs say, "Thanks for your advice, but I'm going to do it anyway." They get away with it often enough, that they're willing to bet they won't get caught. And they end up destroying customer goodwill in the process. Then they collect their parting gifts and watch from the deck of their yacht as the Titanic they once captained sinks.

Anonymous said...

Very good and intresting aricle!! you have a nice blog!

Anonymous said...

Good for you for speaking up! Who knows...You may have saved someone's bacon.

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