The following is a letter I sent earlier this year regarding a dependent care flex spending account reimbursement. It took a lot of time, energy and aggravation to get me to the point of writing this complaint, but true to the old cliché, the squeaky wheel got the grease; I eventually got everything back. I really do believe “they” make this shit hard (when it shouldn’t be) so people don’t want to bother claiming their own money.

To whom it may concern:

I am writing regarding your claim process for the flexible spending accounts. In March 2008, I submitted a claim for the total in my 2007 Dependent care FSA ($1200.00). Later that month, I received a check for $598.36. Because I did not submit all of the receipts that covered the timeframe from July-December 2007, this was understandable, so I submitted another claim for $601.64, which was exactly what remained in my account.

When I checked online to follow up on my claim, I saw that the second claim had been entered into the system and the amount that I was going to be reimbursed was $301.64, which left exactly $300.00 in my account. I can assure you that at $265.00 a week for 16 weeks and an additional $218.00 a week for 10 weeks for child care, what I am requesting back from my account is a drop in the bucket when compared to the total amount that I spent for childcare from 2 July through 31 December 2007. If there is any question, check the second claim submitted for $601.64 and you will find the receipts for each week of this timeframe. The customer service representative (“Nate”), who I spoke to this morning confirmed that these receipts were there.

So far, I have called customer service twice with no confirmation that this claim will be settled. In fact, after I called earlier this week (8 April 2008), I see that there has been a third claim submitted for the amount of $301.64. In addition to this update, I saw that the new claim was denied because:

“$301.64 of the submitted expense is not reimbursable because it was considered for payment on a previous claim.”

Please check the record again. Nowhere in my paperwork did I ask for $301.64; I asked for $601.64, which was exactly what remained in my 2007 account. Aetna reimbursed $301.64 and I am guessing that this was an error from the person processing the claim mistyping on the number keypad (the 3 is directly below the 6). There is no logical reason for exactly $300.00 to be left in that account. Therefore the third and final claim for 2007 should be for $300.00 exactly and it should be reimbursed in full.

While the customer service representatives have been polite and cooperative, there is no acknowledgement that the second claim was submitted correctly and that the error lies with Aetna’s processing. Basically, I am using my time to correct a mistake that was not my fault so I can get back my own money. The general response is usually “Let me get this to a processor” (which is some nameless, faceless entity that customers apparently can not speak to directly). Nate promised he would return a call to me today, but the person I spoke to on Wednesday came back with “Call us on Friday.” Why am I being told to call back to follow up when someone should have been contacting me in a timely manner? Oh, right, because it’s not their money and they don’t really care what happens. Kind of a “Good luck with that” mentality. This pervades the Aetna website too, it’s hard to find a phone number anywhere; the only reason I have it is because I have a member card from my husband’s medical coverage. There, at the bottom, in the smallest legible print is the 1-800 number. Somewhere along the line between the maddening automated phone menu and the ominous claim processing system, the message seems to be that Aetna does not want its members to call for help. If you make something that should be fairly easy into a time consuming, more-difficult-than-it-should-be task, then people will give up trying to claim that last bit of their own money because it’s simply not worth the trouble. Good for Aetna, bad for any customers whose claims were not full reimbursed.

I have to admit that strategy is working because I already regret starting a Dependent care FSA for 2008 and I am seriously considering claiming a tax deduction instead of going through your arduous claim process. Next year I will likely to switch from my husband’s health care to a different company, even if it costs us a bit more. Treat your customers like they matter and they will be loyal, and on the flip side, treat them poorly and eventually you will not have them around to bother you any longer.

Given my complaints, I have to say, the customer service representative who worked with me (“Alice”) last year was a great deal more helpful and seemed to care about my reimbursement. Maybe the next time I call (given the history, there will be a next time) I will get lucky and find someone like that. Probably not.

I am the customer, this is my money and I fail to understand what is taking so long when the receipts are there and I have re-sent the claim with receipts to prove that I spent well over that amount in the 6 months that was covered as well as a short letter clearly stating that I was asking for $601.64 which was the remainder in my account. If this letter spares others from the trouble I have gone through in getting my own money returned to me, then maybe it was worth it. (Probably not)

Thank you.

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