Pricewatch: Readers’ queries
Consumer concerns this week relate to a VHI rule on vaccines, and changes to an Aer Lingus flight
Our reader was floored not by illness but trying to claim back for the expense of travel vaccines from VHI
FEELING DIZZY AFTER CLAIMING FOR VACCINES THROUGH VHI
A reader called Tom was recently on honeymoon in southeast Asia. In preparation for his travels he was prescribed and given travel vaccines. He was floored, however, not by illness but trying to claim back for this expense from VHI.
“In early November I attended [a medical centre] where I first saw the doctor, who prescribed the vaccines. Then I went into the nurse to receive the vaccines. I went down to reception to pay for the services and was issued a receipt by the receptionist. On this day they were changing their computer system.
“The receipt for the vaccines happened to have the name of the nurse who had administered them, which is not the normal practice: it usually only contains the name of the vaccines received,” he writes.
When he submitted his claim to VHI, it refused to pay for the vaccines as they had been administered by a nurse – the terms and conditions state they must be administered by a doctor.
“I then rang the doctor’s surgery to ask them if this had occurred in the past, and they were clueless about this condition of VHI, stating that none of their patients had experienced similar difficulties in claiming for vaccines or medicines.”
He dug a little deeper into the terms and conditions, and he noticed that many of the medicines that are covered for payment must be administered by a doctor. This has raised two concerns for him.
“Many of the payments already made for medicines administered are not actually covered for payment, as they have been administered by a nurse, which is accepted practice within a doctor’s surgery or hospital. The anomaly with my receipt was the only reason that VHI got out of paying me compensation for my vaccines.
“With the vast majority of doctors’ surgeries employing a nurse, a very high percentage of payments made by VHI in compensation would have been made under invalid circumstances,” he says.
The second point is, he suggests, “much more important”. Insisting that a doctor administer all medicines “is a massive waste of doctors’ time. It is very much within VHI’s interest to have a more streamlined and cost-effective healthcare system. Instead they are promoting inefficiencies in an attempt to get around paying for someone’s medicines. It is also worth noting that any medicine received in hospital care is administered by a nurse. You would never expect to have doctors doing such tasks.”
He says that, in spite of a long argument with the company “on a number of occasions, I have received no justification for such a term to exist, or why more payments for medicines have been declined.
“I hope that you can air this issue and get a response from VHI detailing their reasons to insert such a clause. While I am not considering taking my business elsewhere, as my company pays for my medical insurance, I would certainly have moved by now if my situation was different.”
In response, VHI confirms that the rule is in place, but that, as payments to GPs represent less than 1 per cent of its overall total payout, and “because so few of our plans provide benefit towards travel vaccinations, this represents a very small number of claims”.
A spokeswoman said it “reviews its rules on a regular basis. We are going to look at this particular area.”
APOLOGY OVER COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN
A reader has been in touch about Aer Lingus. She booked a flight last September for June 22nd this year, which was changed by the airline to June 24th, and she was notified by email on January 2nd. When she queried the change with the Aer Lingus help desk, she was told twice that the flight had been cancelled, even though the Aer Lingus website said the flight wasn’t cancelled but was fully booked. She then checked again and saw that her flight on the original day was available again, at a cost of €363.19 one way.
She requested a refund, and was told it would take five working days. After that time, the refund had still not appeared, so she rang the help desk again. “I was told the information I was given on the timing of refunds was incorrect, and that it takes 15-20 working days for a refund to be processed. Twelve working days later, no refund has been processed,” she says.
She was advised to send any complaints to customer firstname.lastname@example.org. “When I did this it generated an automated response with a broken link – so essentially I have no way of sending the complaint. It looks to me like the flight was overbooked.
“They cancelled the seat but did not cancel the flight as they claimed. It is available today at a much higher price. I had to book a flight with another carrier for the original dates.”
We contacted Aer Lingus. A spokeswoman said that, while it “occasionally has to make changes to our published schedules”, it is its “policy to keep these to a minimum so as to avoid disruption to our customers, and also to notify all those passengers affected. On this occasion the flight was not cancelled, but the scheduled time of departure was changed for operational reasons. There appears to have been a breakdown in communication. This is a most unusual occurrence.”
She says that a full refund has now been processed. “The normal time for such a transaction is five to 10 working days. We apologise for the delay and any inconvenience. We have written to the customer to explain and will be in contact to offer a gesture of goodwill.”