Reason One Million And One Why United Healthcare Sucks

united healthcare sucks

United Healthcare has long been my least favorite insurance company in terms of interacting with the staff. Ironically, I have never had significant issues with the coverage. It has all been related to the customer support. They are the worst insurance provider about playing the transfer game. Each time I get transferred I have to explain my situation over again to the new rep. Their automated systems takes forever. The system asks for a member ID, and the first thing the rep asks for is a member ID. They have outsourced much of their support to the Phillipines. My calls consistently get dropped. The return a call system makes you enter your phone number despite the fact the system already says it pulled your number out of caller ID. In short, I typically have to call United Healthcare about 10 times to resolve an issue, whereas other companies get it right the first time. I envision some manager on their side applauding the fact that average call times are under 3 minutes, willfully oblivious to the fact that customers have to call in over and over again to resolve the issue.

tdi complaint form

What Did They Do This Time?

I had to refill a prescription in early January after recently having transitioned to COBRA. The COBRA hadn’t been processed yet, so I had to pay for my prescription out of pocket. This is no big deal and standard practice. When my COBRA kicked in a called the company asking how to be reimbursed. The woman told me to Google Optum RX reimbursement form. You can see the form that comes up here. I thought it was weird, but it seemed plausible since Optum and United Healthcare seem to have the same parent company, despite the fact no one at either organization would admit that. After seeing some weird pharmacist boxes on the form, I decided that I better call again. This time I was told to go to, click on find a form on the upper right, and Health Reimbursement Claim Form. You can see a copy of the form here. The first half page of this form advises the customer to go online for quicker service. This sounded great to me since I hate to deal with paper forms.

go online

One of the first things that stood out to me was how vaguely the instructions were written. “Follow steps to submit a claim form.” Have they never seen the maze that is their own website! Anyway, I followed the path that seemed most logical.

claims and accounts

submit a claim for reimbursement

mail the form

The website dead ends with an address, saying to mail the claim form. This is after the first half page of the form I was told to use by a rep on the phone said to use the website. I thought that I must have followed the wrong navigation route, so I called yet again. The customer service rep told me that they have no digital system to transmit claims. What really got me is that when I said I am staring out a form that says go online, she was utterly indifferent. She didn’t even act like she might look into the issue. I mean this claim form is hosted on the homepage of the United Healthcare website!


Here Is Where It Gets Better

As I am talking to the CSR, she asks if I need the address for where to mail the form. I said no an El Paso address is listed at the bottom.el paso address

The customer support rep then commences to tell me that is the wrong address for my group and if I were to mail it to El Paso there is a strong possibility my claim would never be processed. At this point, I said first the form that I was told to use by a United Healthcare rep tells me to use a mythical online claim submission form. Then the address listed on the form would be a black hole if I were to mail the form there. This is all after being told to use the wrong reimbursement form by the first customer support rep. I told the representative that I had 0 confidence that United Healthcare would process my form correctly. She said oh no sir it will be handled correctly, just make sure you mail it to the right address. I literally felt like I was in la la land. The whole process took 2.5 hours of my life that I will never get back. I can only hope and pray that the claim will be processed correctly.

Can these giant mutli-billion dollar companies not allocate a few jobs for people to go through the system as a customer would to audit the user experience? I was given the wrong information over and over again in a manner that would have resulted in my claim not being processed correctly. Whose fault would it be if they didn’t receive my claim in time? Ugh

Update – February 12th, 2015

United Health Care added insult to injury today. When I logged into my account, I saw that my claim was denied. The reason given was that the form was mailed to the wrong address. The CSR claimed that the form I provided (as directed by a separate CSR) wasn’t even the right form. I was infuriated. He tried to tell me that my only remedy was to mail the correct documents to a different address. I turned into “that guy.” I initially demanded to have my call escalated. He repeatedly told me there was nothing they could do. I finally asked to be transferred to an American. She claimed that she would have them forward the form to the correct department, and I should be reimbursed in 10 to 15 business days. I’m not holding my breath, but I was glad to talk to someone who said they could actually fix the issue. It absurd to have the front line CSR’s be so poorly trained that they consistently provide incorrect information on basic issues.

united healthcare claim denied

Update – February 28th, 2015

I just logged into MyUHC. My claim is still listed as denied for the same reason stated previously. It has been sixteen days since I was told the issue would be fixed. To add insult to injury, the automated system hung up on me after saying our office is open from 8am to 8pm local time. It is currently 6:52pm local time. I am so angry I can scream. How can such a large company be so incompetent. One of the suggestions my mother gave was to file a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance. I am going to call again tomorrow and reference my cause number. If the problem isn’t fixed, I will certainly and gladly file a complaint. You should see if your state has a similar online form if you are experiencing the same type of hell.

tdi complaint form


Update 3-11-15

I called back again today and spoke to five different people. The first call dropped as is common with United Healthcare. The part that gets me about the dropped calls is they never call you back when that happens. I can literally sink an hour talking to one rep and if the call drops, I have to start all over again from the very beginning. The people in the Philippines were telling me I needed to talk to my plan administrator through my work. This made absolutely no sense. United Healthcare had paid all the previous bills. I asked to be transferred to an American again. The American told me I had to file the claim with Optum (which as we all know is owned by the same parent company as United Healthcare). The Optum person escalated me to a supervisor. The supervisor said she escalated me to some specialty person. That person is allegedly supposed to call me back in 24 hours. It sounds like at this point United is trying to get me to start the process all over again and submit the claims to Optum a company they own in the first place. Let’s see if they actually call me back.

Update 3-12-15

I waited well over 24 hours and had no call from Optum / United Healthcare. I called in and demanded an American again. The representative in the Philippines tried to make me explain my issue. I became irate and he transferred me. I got a very nice rep named Josh. He called over to the Optum side and got the 24 hour response again. He said one of two things will happen, they will either issue the reimbursement or make me start all over with the paperwork again. He vowed to call me back during his offline time.

Update 3-13-15

I still never received the mythical 24 hour call back from a supervisor, but Josh stuck to his word. He called me back today and said they are going to process my claim and put the money back on my credit card within seven days. Since I have heard similar claims in the past, I am still cautiously optimistic. I was incredibly impressed by this particular rep since no one else at United Healthcare, including supervisors seemed to care.

Update 3-17-15

My prescription claim has now disappeared entirely from I logged into my bank account and finally saw my reimbursement! They didn’t even keep my $40 co-pay. It was a complete refund. A refund I worked damn hard for.



Note About Filing A Complaint Against United Healthcare

During all of my calls, no one seemed to care when I said I was going to file a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance. My mother assured me that this route would suck for them, but she wasn’t sure how long someone should have to wait. The other important fact is that you need written documentation of the events. This is hard to provide when everything is verbally said during a phone conversation. A couple friends pointed out that if you have Google Voice, it is easy to record a call by pressing 6. United Healthcare has the standard disclaimer, saying calls are recorded. My friends asserted (none of us are lawyers) that if they have that disclaimer, you are allowed to record the call without notifying the rep. If this is completely true, this could be an effective way to provide your states insurance commission with proof. If you are going through an ordeal similar to mine, you might want to investigate.


The United Healthcare Mission Statement – What a Joke!

The United Healthcare mission statement is a classic example of the disconnect between people who make decisions and espouse grandiose values and how their never ending cost-cutting measures impact consumers. I cringe to think how much the company spent crafting these lies.

united healthcare mission statement

How to File Insurance Complaints in Other States

Remember to start documenting early. Keep meticulous notes, and save every bit of paper. Try using the Google Voice trick to record the phone call if they have a recorded call disclaimer. (This is not legal advise. Check your local laws first.)

Why Fake New Ranks Well

Have you ever wondered why fake news stories rank so well? The short answer is they catch people’s attention. The related buzz in the form of backlinks and social signals are two of the most important factors in search algorithms. Authority (being recognized as an expert) and content (quality, length, volume) are the other biggies. One of the interesting aspects of SEO is that a site can usually rank well with just a couple of these factors. Think about it like this – a 200 word article on about China’s oil usage is going to rank better than a 2,000 word article on about China’s oil production. The content posted on CNN is super skimpy, but their site is a recognized news authority with tons of social signals and backlinks. Their site is also old and has millions of pages indexed. As you can see, the most important search factors tend to favor large corporations that can pay writers to produce daily content. It is sad in a way since the little guy will find it harder and harder to rank over time, but the algorithm is doing its job because most people would rather see the 200 word article by CNN.

Examples Where Fake News Ranks Well

dustin diamond murder

I decided to write this article because Dustin Diamond (aka Screech from Saved by the Bell) recently stabbed someone in a Wisconsin bar. I know this news was devastating to the three remaining die-hard fans of Saved by the Bell. A fake news site called Empire News took the story a step further by saying that the person Dustin stabbed died, and Dustin is now being charged with murder. This exaggeration was a stroke of genius for a site trying to gain traffic. My news feed on Facebook was filled with the story for days. The story was so rampant Snopes quickly chimed in to explain what actually happened.

snopes dustin diamond

Even now when I search for Dustin Diamond (completely logged out of my Google account), the Empire News article ranks 12th. This is right behind an article from the folks at People Magazine.

dustin diamond

Regarding the second example, I first must admit a deep, dark secret … I like to read what rich and famous people are worth. OK, my confession isn’t quite as bad as being an ax murderer, but I still feel a deep sense of shame with this revelation. Typically, either Celebrity Net Worth or The Richest come up first in the results. Those blogs are no Forbes in their own right. When I read their estimates I imagine some guy much like myself saying I think Britney Spears should be worth 250 million.

Now a spoof site called Media Mass has gotten into the mix and publishes some outlandish figures. They probably have some guy in the Philippines making $350 a month following the same template over and over again for a giant list of celebrities. I can tell by their Alexa rank that they receive an insane amount of traffic, and therefore, make a killing in terms of advertising revenue.

why fake news websites rank



Is It Really That Simple?

Yes! These sites found a way to game the search algorithms. Personally, I hate the rise of these sites because I feel like an utter fool when I believe one of their stories, even for a split second.


How Do These Newer Sites Differ From The Onion?

the onion

Some readers might say hasn’t the Onion been doing this forever? In a sense they would be correct. I would still contend that the Onion is more deeply rooted in humor. Most readers can determine fairly early in an Onion article that it is a joke. Many of these newer generation sites are simply gaming the system. Here is a link to the the Onion Kindle store. If you click on that link and happen to make a purchase, I might make a few cents.


Why Is The Rise Of Fake News Sites Bad?

Any flaw in the system that makes search results worse for the end consumer is bad. Think about it this way, when I search for Britney Spears net worth, I want to see a ballpark estimate of how much she is actually worth. Relatively few people want to see some completely absurd figure. It is also bad because imitators are sure to follow and more search results are destined to be filled with junk results.


Do I See A Fix?

This is a hard problem to fix. The main signals to determine the worthiness of a website have served us well to this point. The most logical answer would be for Google to put up or down arrows on search results. This could create an automated feedback loop that could knock these fake stories down the ranking. Of course, this would require people to be able to recognize these stories as fake and take the time to provide feedback.

Let me know if you have any additional ideas.

Why Are Cops Assholes?

sanctioned thugs

I personally think cops are legally sanctioned thugs and bullies. I realize many would disagree with my assessment. That’s fair, but this assessment is based from my life experience. The absolute worst interactions I had were in high school. Cops would harass us for no reason. Their comments were so smug. It felt like cops were trying to pick fights with sixteen and seventeen year old kids who had little power to defend themselves. The irony is that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. The only result of their unprovoked rounds of twenty questions was to fill me with disdain for a class of people who are allegedly meant to protect us.

Some might say at this point, “who would you call if your house was broken into or there was a rape or a murder.” They might also say, “do you want a world of anarchy.” Those arguments aren’t fair. The insinuation is that we as a society can only have one extreme or the other. I want a society in which police follow the golden rule and treat others as they would like to be treated. Beyond this, they should never respond to words with violence. In many incidents, those who defend the police argue police brutality would have never occurred if the person complied with a cops request. One problem is many cops make requests that do not align with the law. Another issue most of us have seen is that the base state for many cops is so angry, they approach situations with an attitude that escalates intensity and anger.

Random Police Brutality Video

What is missing from police training is a philosophy that promotes freedom — officers should serve the public and not the state. 

Cops Can’t Be Too Smart

idiot cop

Have you heard that courts upheld a policy that allows police departments to decline applicants who test too high on their IQ test? The theory is applicants with high intelligence will be bored with police work and quit. Expensive training would be wasted. While this theory may be applicable at lower levels, don’t police departments like many government entities promote from within? If the pool to promote has fewer gears to work with, who will administrate based on the big picture.

One of my main problems (despite the fact they tend to be control freak assholes) is they rarely seem to take into account the intent of the law or how they could have the same or better impact with less draconian measures. The former component is likely on purpose. Societal structures don’t want the masses, let alone the cops, to question rules. Questioning the system leads to change. Cops are agents of the status quo. An aspect of enforcement that boggles my mind is how we can turn our nose up when looking at the role police and military play in maintaining societal structures of oppression and inequality in a country like Egypt, while the majority ignore it in our own country.


The Wrong People Are Drawn To Police Work

asshole cop meme

I don’t personally know anyone who could stomach the idea of enforcing laws that deprive people of their liberty without question. The stereotype of a police officer is someone in search of power and authority otherwise lacking from their life. When I see a police brutality video, a comment inevitably appears saying “if they had just done exactly as the officer had said.” This mentality ignores the fact that the cops in these videos are often ignorant of the law themselves, start the interaction with a hostile attitude, refuse to listen to the civilian’s side of the story, and escalate to physical violence when people disrespect them regardless of the threat level.

Us vs. Them

Even my aunt and her husband, referred to almost everyone as a perp for two years after they retired from the department. Some argue this problem is the result of police officers becoming jaded after seeing so much messed up crap. I would contend it has much more to do with the culture. Cops often become isolated and only interact with other officers. This creates a cycle where they become separated from the average Joe. The indoctrination process both in the form of training and culture instills a mentality where they need to play the role of the authority vs. non-authority. While this is true in some cases, too many cops of a bastardized perspective of what authority actually means.

I consistently see cops break the laws they are intended to enforce. They speed without sirens, run red lights, accelerate like they are in a rental car, and just generally beat the crap out of their cars. This is obviously the tip of the iceberg in regards to how cops are above the law. There is a case I vividly remember of a drunken HPD officer running into a house with his car. The PR spin from HPD immediately went to excuses of stress and financial burdens. If a regular person told that to a cop, I can only imagine the flurry of condescending comments. Then their is the deeper component I know nothing of personally whe

If you want to read more on the Us vs. Them mentality, I thoroughly recommend this article by former officer Gus Gadomski. Also, here is an interesting book on the NYPD thin blue line.


Everyone knows that being a cop means dealing with some sleazy folks. Most probably feel under appreciated (a sentiment shared by a huge percentage of workers). That doesn’t excuse the tendency of many cops to unnecessarily escalate situations and treat non-violent and non-threatening people with malice.

Major Problems

  • Who is hired / attracted to the profession
  • Training
  • Unions
  • Us versus Them mentality
  • Militarization
  • Brass denying there is a problem
  • Too much focus on numbers instead of positive change

Super Brain Fart

screaming woman

Do you ever have one of those super brain fart moments that leaves you not knowing whether to scream, laugh, or cry? Of course you do! You are a human.

I had one of these WTF moments yesterday at work. I used the restroom. This is frequently one of my favorite times at work as it is nice to have some quality quiet time to yourself. After I flushed, I noticed a spot on my shirt. In a truly duh moment, I licked my finger and started rubbing the spot on the shirt. Then I had that rush of panic as I remembered that I had just flushed the toilet with that same hand. I immediately went flush and proceeded to wash my mouth out with soap.

Unfortunately, the damage is done. I doubt this painful trauma will ever fully leave my ruminating mind.


Red Light Camera Rant

red light camera sign

I recently started a new website named in response to receiving a red light ticket from that town. I honestly had no clue that I had received said ticket until it arrived in the mail. I was annoyed by this occurrence to say the least. I think my more precise thoughts were along the lines of those chicken shit SOB’s.

Bastrop has long had the reputation of having an over exuberant police department used as a profit center. This is frequently the case with small Texas towns. It is similar to little man syndrome in a person. The town elects to flex its muscles through law enforcement with the rationale you better not misbehave in our town and if you do you deserve what you get. For lack of a better word, it is a common hick mentality, although this thinking isn’t exclusively the domain of rednecks.

I have become far more disturbed about red light cameras in my process of researching for the new website. 40% of all U.S. contracts are administered by one company based out of Phoenix named American Traffic Solutions. This company claims accidents drop by 24% in locations with red light cameras and the majority of citizens support their usage. The latter fact is contracted by the fact that red light cameras have been defeated 22 of the 23 times they have been put to a vote. Studies saying red light cameras prevent accidents are contradicted by just as many studies saying they increase accidents.

Since the efficacy of red light cameras as a tool to increase safety is dubious at best, why do municipalities continue to adopt these systems? As usual, the answer is money. American Traffic Solutions offers to install the cameras and initially process infractions for a mere 25% piece of the action. This equates to millions over time. In fact, ATS demanded over 20 million dollars from the city of Houston when their voters elected to remove red like cameras. The city was able to settle the case for a mere 4.8 million dollars in the end. This wasn’t a bad deal though considering the cameras had collected well over 40 million dollars worth of fines in the few short years they had been in action.

Even more disturbing revelations relate to the lobbying efforts of American Traffic Solutions. Until recently, ATS was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council along with numerous other large corporations. If you are interested in learning more about the connection between ATC and ALEC, I recommend reading Sourcewatch.

Why Don’t We Stand Up?

Obviously, running a red light is a dangerous practice. The real concerns here involve the privatization of a public duty, corruption and the invasive actions of big brother. Red light cameras lead to speed cameras. Then cameras are added to school buses to ticket cars that pass while children are being unloaded. The next steps involve drone surveillance. The underlying message all along is you have nothing to fear unless you are breaking the law. This is bullshit. I have plenty to fear from an invasion of privacy. Even if you are a saint who never breaks the most minor of law, your children likely will. Yes, the same children that you might be trying to protect are going to face increasingly severe penalties as a result of the overarching reach of government.

Another significant problem results once municipalities become hooked on this tax revenue. Once they start counting on these funds and using them to fund new programs, they will fight tooth an nail to protect them. After all, wouldn’t you fight to protect your job.

Anyway, these trends are disturbing. I certainly hope my generation will start to protest against these intrusions to build a government that actually works for the people.

Work Hammock

We put up a hammock at work today. The email marketing manager suggested having a hammock to the owner, and he was nice enough to bring one. Most of my co-workers had the same comment about it being a nice hammock.

work hammock

Notice how the weaving is padded. This got me thinking about what hammock options are available. The closest substitute I found on Amazon was the quilted fabric double hammock with pillow.

Quilted Fabric Double Hammock with Pillow

quiltted fabric double hammock with pillow

I actually think the hammock from Amazon looks a little nicer. The main plus is it comes with a pillow. Several co-workers who laid on the work hammock said they wished it came with pillow. The quilted fabric double hammock with pillow has a list price of $200, but it is currently (6/14/13) on sale for $69.99 with $10 shipping and handling. Other benefits:

  • 450 pound weight capacity
  • resistant to fading from sunlight
  • the pillow buttons in place
  • out of 50 reviews, 33 people give it 5 stars and and 12 give it 4 stars (the other 5 people are just bitchy)

In case you wondered, here is what the work hammock looked like after it was installed.

work hammock 2

We hung our work hammock between two cedar trees. They are considered an invasive species in Austin, so no one minds if you drill a couple holes in them. The Amazon picture of the quilted fabric double hammock with pillow did get me thinking about that awesome wooden stand in the picture. We got lucky by having two trees of the proper distance, but Amazon has that awesome wooden stand if you want or need one.

14 Foot Wooden Hammock Stand with Luxurious 5 Layer Quilted Hammock

14 foot wooden hammock stand

Unfortunately, this stand isn’t exactly cheap. The list price is $499. The price on Amazon (6/14/13) is $249.99 + $69.99 shipping for an out the door total of $319.98. The main features of the hammock stand are:

  • 3 year warranty on all the wood components
  • 450 pound capacity
  • Luxurious 5-layer, sunlight resistant hammock included
  • All necessary bolts, washers, and tools included

I realize this hammock setup might be cost prohibitive for many people. If you are looking for more affordable options and don’t mind the aesthetics of a metal stand, you might consider the number 1 selling hammock option on Amazon.

Vivere UHSDO9 Double Hammock with Space-Saving Steel Stand

hammock with metal stand
While this hammock lacks the pizzazz of some of the others we’ve looked at, it is quite affordable at $129.97 (as of 6/14/13) with free shipping.

Other attributes:

  • 450 pound weight capacity
  • The colorful hammock is 100% cotton
  • The set includes a carrying case

I wouldn’t expect the hammock bed to be as comfortable nor as durable as some of the other options, but at roughly a one third the cost, it’s a more reasonable option for many.

Putting up a hammock at work was an enjoyable, stress relieving way to spend some of a Friday afternoon. Should you decide a hammock would improve your life be it at work or home, I hope you can use some of my research to make the best decision for yourself.


Toshiba Laptop Touchpad Not Working Windows 8

Has the touchpad mouse on your Toshiba laptop quit working in Windows 8? I have a Satellite S855-S5378. It’s been a good machine for the most part. The fan can get a little loud, and I’m not a huge fan of Windows 8. I can’t blame Toshiba for the latter problem though.

The other day my touchpad quit working out of the blue. By out of the blue, I mean my cat walked over the keyboard and it stopped. The annoying part was the touchpad mouse would work before logging into Windows 8 but not after logging in. At first I said, “oh well,” and plugged in a spare USB mouse. That didn’t last long.

Google led me to a thread at:

Toshiba Forums

Their solution seemed like a pain. I decided to check my settings before going to so much effort.

How to Check Settings Toshiba Synaptic Touchpad Settings

  1. Click on the up arrow on the right side of your taskbar
  2. Click on the Synaptic menu

Toshiba Synaptic Touchpad Menu

3. Select pointing device properties

Toshiba Synaptic Pointing Device Properties

4. Click on the Device Settings tab and make sure the Enable button is pressed

Synaptic Mouse Properties

If you are lucky like I was, this solution will solve your problem. Otherwise, you might want to try the more tedious steps described in the Toshiba forum.

Best of luck! P.S. If you decide to give up, here is the link for the Amazon page of laptops.

Online Again!

I recently decided to bring my namesake website back online along with several other projects that had been languishing. My passions reside in Internet marketing, particularly affiliate marketing and SEO. I’ve worked in this field for this last five or so years. Unfortunately, it’s been too easy after working 40 or 50 hours a week to put off my own projects. No more though. I’m going to bring my sites to life in an effort to both learn more about Internet marketing and share the knowledge I’ve gained.