Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Aetna Sucks, Screws Its Customers (and not in a good way)

When a health insurance company says that it covers annual exams, what do you think it means?

A) It covers one exam per year
B) It covers one exam per calendar year
C) Once you've had an exam, you need to wait 365 days before your next exam, or it will cost you $400

If you're Aetna, you ignore common sense and go with choice C).

My wife got an annual physical last summer. Because our kids' school system moved up the start of the school year this year, she got her physical about a month early, so that only 11 months had elapsed since her last exam.

When I saw the bill, I thought it must be a mistake.

The insurance company explained that their annual exam coverage meant that because she hadn't waited 365 days, her exam wasn't covered.

No big deal, I told her, just have your HR department contact them and explain the mistake.

Today, we received this response:
"Since Aetna has processed the medical claim appropriately & according to policy, an exception cannot be made on the claims processing."
Now bear in mind, my wife doesn't work for some tiny startup. Her employer is one of the world's most powerful companies. It has nearly 160,000 employees worldwide. And yet Aetna still told my wife's company to pound sand. They did the same thing to this guy.

This isn't the end of the world. After all, it's not like our experience is unique. "Aetna sucks" brings up 5,610 results on Google (versus 139 for "Aetna rocks," a goodly number of which referred to the rocks of Mount Aetna in Greece). And an annual physical is pretty cheap in comparison to being denied heart surgery. Of course, Sean Semon's sad tale took place in 2009. I'm sure they responded to the publicity, right? Oh wait, Sean is still waiting to get on the transplant list.

Look, a blog called "Adventures in Capitalism" isn't going to proclaim the virtues of socialism or demonize corporations. They're called "for-profits," not "Red Cross." But A) applying a policy in a way that seems completely counter to common sense and B) refusing to re-examine the issue even when asked by a Global 1000 corporation seems like pretty bad business.

I'd be happy to hear any alternate explanations that Aetna might have. Right now, it looks like it's using the letter of its contracts to shirk the obligations that any reasonable businessperson would strive to meet.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Microsoft People vs. Apple People

There are Microsoft people and Apple people.

Microsoft people want every option, and can't imagine why others would find the surfeit of choices intimidating or annoying.

In the parlance of psychology, they are "optimizers".

Apple people want a simple, elegant experience, and care little about individual features. They adapt to the limitations presented to them, perhaps without even thinking about them.

In the parlance of psychology, they are "satisficers".

The approach you take depends on your read on your audience. Just recognize that you can't make both of them happy.

Microsoft serves corporate IT, which historically consists of highly-technical control freaks who don't give a damn about the end users.

Microsoft dominates this market, despite the fact that Apple's products and marketing are generally considered superior.

Apple made its money by convincing individual consumers to part with their money, in part by not making them feel like their missing out if they choose "Standard" rather than "Custom" when installing a new piece of software.

Apple dominates this market, despite the fact that Microsoft has spent untold billions on things like the Zune, and despite Microsoft's historical dominance in OS shipments and the Office suite.

The point is, you have to choose. If you don't, you end up with things like Microsoft's consumer products or Apple's datacenter products--strange chimeras which flail in the marketplace.

Where does your audience fall on this continuum?

(This post began as a comment on PandaWhale)