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Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield Agrees To Reimburse Customers After Probe Into Sign-Up, Billing Problems

CBS New York (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSNewYork.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSNewYork.com/Health

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of New Yorkers who had faced problems enrolling for plans through the state’s health care exchange and other issues will receive three weeks of free coverage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

The agreement applies to Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield customers and comes following a Department of Financial Services investigation into complaints that included Empire sending out membership cards late, failing to mail bills on time and not responding to customer inquiries in a timely fashion.

“Empire did the right thing by working to address these issues and delivering relief to consumers,” Cuomo said in a news release. “We will continue to work vigilantly to ensure that consumers receive the high standards of care and service that they deserve from their insurance companies.”

Under the agreement, 15,000 to 20,000 Empire customers will receive cash payments equivalent to three weeks of premiums. The insurer also had pledged to spend $2 million on consumer education to encourage uninsured New Yorkers to enroll for coverage through the New York State of Health exchange.

In a statement released Sunday, Empire said the rollout of the state exchange has been “turbulent.”

“While we have made significant progress in addressing these initial problems, we hope that this voluntary accommodation helps to show how much we value our members’ decision to select Empire as their health insurer,” the company said. “In the meantime, we will continue to work vigorously to address the issues our members may have experienced, respond to our members’ questions, and ultimately get people covered.”

Beth and Lou Drucker accumulated a massive file of correspondence with Blue Cross Blue Shield inside of a few months, CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported.

In December, they called the company looking for a bill and their insurance cards.

“That was when it started. We don’t know who you are. You never paid us,” Beth said.

The couple spent hours and days on the phone with the company. They called elected officials and finally got their coverage less than a week ago.

The Druckers are among as many as 20,000 New Yorkers who will be receiving a check from Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield that will pay for three weeks of free coverage.

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