What Am I Missing Here? Spousal Abuse and Stupidity or Just Stupidity?

Here’s a story that was related to me by someone I trust.

Like me, he commutes everyday from New Jersey to Manhattan.  He takes the bus.  A few days ago he got an aisle seat.  Sitting across from him were a husband and wife.  The husband had the window seat; the wife had the aisle seat.  So much for the geography of the story.

After the bus left Manhattan, it’s first stop was in Jersey.  A woman got on.  There was no seat so she stood a couple of feet in front of my source who told me that the husband, sitting across from him, looked up and said to his wife, “A beautiful woman should not have to stand.  Give her your seat!”

The wife actually stood up and told the woman to sit.  The woman accepted the offer.  (There was no way she could not have heard what the husband said.  She was not listening to music or talking on the phone.)  My source offered the wife his seat; she refused.

My initial reaction was that the wife is an abuse victim and is used to being treated disrespectfully.  As for the woman who accepted her seat…

What do you think?


How to Get Fired in One Easy Lesson

My  cell phone company is MetroPCS.  The phone service is good.  Their website and customer service over the phone stink.  But they have a store around the corner from my office and when I have a problem I go there.  You can’t argue the price: $50 for unlimited everything.

Well, not exactly $50.  I have been paying an additional $4 a month for insurance.  It was logical when the phone cost $220.  Now that it costs $99; not so logical.  My phone has a scratch on it so, even though I bought it less than a year ago, the store won’t replace it.  There is a technical problem with the phone, which is why I wanted it replaced, that has nothing to do with the scratch.  No matter.  I have insurance.  And the lady at the insurance company was very polite when she told me I would have to pay an $84 deductible to replace the phone.  Not worth it.

My first visit to the store was to get the number for the insurance company.  My trip back was to cancel the insurance.  As I was waiting in line an employee arrived.  The woman behind the counter asked him to make a bank deposit.  He immediately started to scream, “I’m not your slave!  That’s not my job!  You lied to me about lunch!  I’m 30 years old; I don’t need this!”

OK, that is not what he said.  It’s what he said between dropping F-bombs.  It was an amazing thing to witness.  Here was a 30 year old man who did not have the slightest idea about what being an employee means.  Ever see a job description?  The last line is almost always, “And any other duties assigned by a supervisor.”  This was a failure of his schooling, his parents and any authority figure with whom he ever interacted for any period of time.

After he stormed out of the store a young woman came in.  She also works there.  She went to sit down.  Her colleague told her not to but first to go to the bank to make a deposit.  She did not even bat an eye.  Good education. Good parents.  Good everybody else.

The funny thing is is that when the male employee (I can’t bring myself to say “gentleman”) was asked to make the bank deposit he was being paid a compliment.  His colleague was telling him that she trusted him.  But he did not understand that.  When he left he realized that he was going to be fired.  Hopefully, when the young lady left to go to the bank, she realized that she was building her future.

Search Engine Optimization

As readers of this blog know, I like to attach a photo to my posts which sometimes are obvious and sometimes need to be explained.   This one may need an explanation.  The photo is of a black hole.

For whatever reason, today has been my day for getting e-mails and phone calls from Search Engine Optimization consultants.  Each one, you will not be surprised to learn, promised that they can get me to the top of a Google search.  One even guaranteed it.

Funny story:  When I Googled these consultants, or rather, when I Googled “search engine optimization consultants,” adding their location (I am nothing if not fair), not one of them appeared on the first page.  So my question to them was, “If you can’t get you to the top of the list why would I believe that you can get me there – and pay you for the privilege?”

Most just told me I did not understand SEO (Don’t you just love how people hide behind acronyms?) and politely hung up.  One guy said I was doing it wrong.  Instead of Googling “Search Engine Optimization” I should Google, “XYZ.”  “XYZ” stands for another business this guy has and when you Google it, he actually does appear at the top of the list.

“Impressive!”  I told him.  “But I’m not interested in an XYZ expert.  We’re talking SEO.  So, if you got yourself to the top of the list for XYZ, and can’t get yourself to the top of the list for SEO, it appears you could do it, but only once.  Am I wrong?”  He said he’d e-mail me.

I’ve been invited to speak in December at The New York Public Library on obtaining and utilizing media coverage at no cost.  As of today, since May of last year I’ve been quoted in 155 articles which have appeared in 126 publications on every continent other than Africa and Antarctica.

Those are my bona fides when it comes to PR.  What are yours when it comes to your work and the service that you offer?  If you can’t do for yourself what you are promising to do for someone else, you have zero credibility.  It would be like me getting up and saying, and remember I am an executive recruiter, “I’d love to hire a director of Marketing, but I just can’t find anyone.  But I can find one for you in two weeks!!!!!”  No one would take me seriously.

Oh, and as for the reason for the picture of a black hole, that is very well where your money will be going if you actually hire an SEO consultant – at least one who can’t do for himself what he says he can do for you!

Fed up with the healthcare industry? Join me in trying to do something about it!

Have you ever felt totally frustrated dealing with a company that is supposed to be devoted to helping you?  Of course you have.  It happens all the time.  But how often do we say to ourselves, “Well, it’s not THAT much money.  Forget about it!”

This time I decided not to forget about it.  I want to do something about it and frankly I want to know if my (our) elected officials care.  So I am taking advantage of my radio program, and have invited seven members of Congress to join me to discuss the price of prescription drugs.  I have also invited my insurance provider, EmblemHealth, and their pharmacy, Medco, to participate.

The program will air on Thursday, June 16 at 11:30 AM.  The link is  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bhp/2011/06/16/are-emblemhealth-medco-fixing-prices-violating-the-law.  Please join me for the broadcast and share this information with your friends.  After all, if it happened to one of us, it can happen to all of us.  THANK YOU!

Here’s the full text of my letter, detailing what happened:

May 20, 2011

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg,  324 Hart Senate Office Building,  Washington, DC 20510

Senator Robert Menendez, 528 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

Representative Steve Rothman,  2303 Rayburn House Office Building,  Washington, DC 20515

Representative Fred Upton,  Chair, House Committee on Energy & Commerce, 2183 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Member, House Committee on Energy & Commerce ,  2204 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515

Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman,  Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, 531 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, 284 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

Dear Members of Congress:

This letter concerns health care, anti-trust issues regarding pharmaceuticals and interstate commerce.

My health insurance provider is EmblemHealth which is part of GHI.  Their pharmacy is Medco.

If memory serves, on May 8 I contacted my Pathmark Pharmacy to reorder two prescriptions, Simvastatin and Losartin.  Last month a 30-day supply of these drugs cost me, respectively, $4.12 and $15.27.  On May 9, when I went to pick up the refills I was shocked to discover that the price of the drugs had risen to $7.14 and $68.28, respectively.  This represents an increase of approximately 73% and 350%, respectively.  Both are generic medications.

When the pharmacist explained that the prices were those given her by EmblemHealth and there was nothing she could do about it, I called to speak with a representative.  As it was late in the day, I was told to call back the next morning. The representative told me that the price of the Losartin had to be a mistake.  Ironically, as you will see, the problem was actually going to be with the Simvastatin.

When I called the next morning and explained the situation, I was told that EmblemHealth had informed all pharmacies on April 17 that it would be raising prices on medications.  If I wanted to save money I would have to use EmblemHealth’s pharmacy, Medco, which would be able to provide me with three-month supplies of my medications at reduced prices.

I asked for a clarification.  The gentleman reiterated that one price was being charged to pharmacies and another to Medco.  The first issue, therefore, is one of anti-trust.  Why should EmblemHealth be permitted to give preferential treatment to one pharmacy over another (or all others) as regards pricing, which is the only thing that matters when it comes to pharmaceuticals since all generics are identical regardless of manufacturer?  I can understand wanting to promote their own pharmacy by offering special services, such as 90-day supplies of medications versus 30-day supplies, but not as regards pricing.  I am not an attorney, but isn’t this precisely why we have anti-trust laws?  Isn’t this price fixing – especially if all the health insurance providers act in this manner?

Since I was promised that the price through Medco would be lower, I cancelled the order with my pharmacy and placed the order with Medco.  I contacted Medco by phone and was informed that I could not find out the price of the medications until they received the prescriptions from my physician.  I would then be able to see the invoice on-line.  A day or two later I went to their website.  There was a screen telling me that I could not access my account until I provided updated payment (credit card) information.  I did so and to my shock discovered that while the 90-day supply of Losartan was only going to cost $79.84 (the 30-day supply at my pharmacy would have been $68.28 so this amounted to a savings of $125.00), the Simvastatin was now going to cost me $115.24 (the 30-day supply at my pharmacy would have cost me $7.14 so I was now paying $93.82 more than if I had purchased the same medication at my pharmacy over a three-month period).

I immediately contacted customer service at Medco to cancel the order for the Simvastatin.  I was told that the drugs had been shipped and there was nothing that they could do about it.  I needed to contact EmblemHealth.

The second issue, therefore, is one of interstate commerce.  The physical pharmacy from where the drugs were shipped is in Delaware.  I live in New Jersey.  Medco did not offer me the opportunity to view the price of the medications before I purchased them.  Even though literally only a few minutes had passed between my entering my credit card information and my calling them, they could do nothing about it.

The strange thing is that the notice that appeared on the Medco website when I logged on informing me that they needed updated payment information said that the medication would not be shipped until I provided the information.  Yet the Medco representative said that it had already been shipped.

Should not companies involved with interstate commerce be required to provide pricing information prior to a sale being finalized?  In truth, I have purchased countless items on-line.  In all cases, before submitting the order, I have always been given the opportunity to see the final price and to cancel the order.  This, as stated, was not the case with Medco.  Why should this common practice and courtesy of Internet-based business not apply to a pharmacy?

On May 13 I called EmblemHealth and spoke with a representative named Suzie.  She admitted that the price for the Simvastatin had to be an error.  May 13 was a Friday.  She told me that someone would contact me over the weekend, Monday at the latest.

On Tuesday the 17th, I called EmblemHealth and spoke with Stephanie.  When I told her the story, she transferred me to Suzie who again told me about the above mentioned April 17 letter.  She said I could get the Simvastatin at the lower rate from my own pharmacy.  I reiterated to her that while that was all fine and good in the future, I had been told that using Medco would save me money on both prescriptions and, as far as the Simvastatin was concerned, I was out $93.82.

I explained to Suzie the seriousness of the situation and that I did not think it was fair that she be the public face, so to speak, of this issue.  I asked to speak with a supervisor.  She put me on hold and came back and said that her supervisor was at lunch and that he would call me back.  I gave her my office number and asked for the supervisor’s name.  She said, “Raymond.”  I asked what his last name was.  She said she could not tell me.  I told her, very politely, that that was not a good answer.  I explained that this was going to become a big deal and that it would not be a smart move to refuse to give me the supervisor’s full name.  She called me back and said that the best she could do was to give me his initial, “F.”  She reiterated that he would be calling me.

That was at approximately 3 PM on the 17th.  As I had not heard from him I called at 2 PM on the 18th.  I spoke with Bea who told me she could not locate either Suzie or Raymond but would try to connect me with a supervisor.  Prior to that she mentioned that the price issue may have had something to do with my deductable but, as she confirmed, Pathmark had charged me a deductable, and she dropped the issue.

I was transferred to Phoenix.  She told me that when Pathmark processed the claims the reimbursement rate to them was incorrect.  She said that she understood my concerns and would “escalate” this to a supervisor who would be in touch with me within 2 business days, meaning by the end of business today, Friday the 20th.  No one has contacted me.

I am the host of a radio program, Bruce Hurwitz Presents, on BlogTalkRadio (www.blogtalkradio.com/bhp).  Since January of this year, I have had over 2,000 listeners.  I have scheduled a broadcast for Thursday, June 16 at 11:30 AM (Eastern Time) to discuss this issue.  The link to the program is http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bhp Needless to say, I will be advertising this episode to my network which includes over 19,000 professionals.  I will also be contacting the reporters in whose articles I have appeared over the past year (some 150 in total – you can see the full list on the Media Center page of my website, http://www.hsstaffing.com) asking them to promote the show as well.  It will be a live half-hour broadcast.  I would like to invite you or your representative to participate.  Both EmblemHealth and Medco are receiving copies of this letter and their representatives are also invited to participate.  Please confirm your participation at least one day in advance of the broadcast.  If you will be represented by a staff member, I will need their name and the phone number from where they will be calling so that I can identify them and assure their participation.  The number to call-in to participate in the program is 323-792-2978.  At the conclusion of this letter is the promotional announcement for the show.  (Please note that the broadcast itself will remain available in perpetuity and you will be able to use it, as you see fit, at any time.)

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.  Anything you can do to get me a refund or, even more importantly, to assure that this does not happen to anyone else, will be much appreciated.

I am enclosing receipts from my previous prescriptions, on which I recorded the new prices, and the receipt from Medco.  You may distribute them and this letter as you see fit.  I have posted this letter on my blog (hsstaffing.wordpress.com) and will be happy to include any response which I receive from your office at any time.

Please feel free to contact me at my office number, 646-368-5381.

Once again, thank you for in advance for your assistance and, hopefully, for your participation in the broadcast


Bruce A. Hurwitz, Ph.D.

 c.c     Ms. Ilene Margolin, Senior Vice President Public Affairs and   Communications, EmblemHealth, IMargolin@emblemhealth.com

Mr. Jeffrey Simek, Vice President, Corporate Communications, Medco      Health Solutions, Inc., Jeffrey_simek@medco.com

Bruce Hurwitz Presents on BlogTalkRadio (www.blogtalkradio.com./bhp)

Are EmblemHealth & Medco Fixing Prices & Violating the Law?

This show is going to be personal.  I take two medications.  Both are generic.  The price of one just went up 73% while the price of the other rose 350%!  When my health insurance company informed me that I could get lower prices if I used their pharmacy, well… it did not turn out that way.

This show will explore two main issues:  First, can a health insurance company charge their own pharmacy one price for drugs and other pharmacies another price?  Isn’t that a violation of anti-trust laws?

Second, when I placed the order for the medications, I could not find out the prices until after they had received my payment information and the invoice had been processed.  That’s when I really got sticker shock!  This leads to the question of Internet-based companies charging individuals for products without first revealing the prices.  Isn’t this an issue of the regulation of interstate commerce?  And why, when no one else does it, can a pharmacy?

Invited to appear on the program are Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, and Representative Steve Rothman, all of New Jersey (where I live).  Additionally, I have invited Representatives Fred Upton and Henry Waxman, the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Senators Jay Rockefeller and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, to participate.  If they cannot personally join us, I have made it clear that their representatives will be welcome.

To be fair, I have also invited representatives of my health insurance company, EmblemHealth, and their pharmacy, Medco, to participate.

It should be interesting!

You can read the whole story on my blog – https://hsstaffing.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/fed-up-with-the-healthcare-industry-join-me-in-trying-to-do-something-about-it/