In the wake of a widespread glitch that auto-billed 25,000 beneficiaries in Tricare's East region with monthly fees 100 times the amount owed on Thursday, the contractor in charge said it is working with banks to block the charges.
"We are actively working to correct this billing error, and the payment process has been stopped," Mark Mathis, a spokesman for Humana, told Military.com in an email late Thursday.
The issue impacted all users in the East region who automatically pay monthly enrollment fees by credit or debit card, including military retirees on Tricare Prime and those enrolled in Tricare Reserve Select, Tricare Retired Reserve and Tricare Young Adult. It did not affect retirees and others who pay premiums through paycheck allotment or Tricare for Life enrollees.
The incorrectly billed amounts ranged from just over $4,000 to a whopping $110,000, depending on the set monthly premiums, according to a Military.com calculation. While some beneficiaries reported that their credit card companies blocked the charge, those using checking accounts may not have been so lucky, with the automatically billed amount sparking overdraft fees and potentially cleaning out their savings.
Mathis said Humana plans to work directly with banks to cover any fees caused by the error.
"We are working directly with banks to reverse charges before they occur," he said. "We pledge that we will do everything we can to ensure that beneficiaries are not adversely affected by this error, including covering overdraft and related fees."
Enrollees won't experience interrupted Tricare coverage, he said. Customers who are experiencing problems can call Humana at 1-800-444-5445 during normal business hours.
In 2018, the same group of users affected by Thursday's error was at risk of using their health coverage entirely when Humana in the East and HealthNet Federal Services in Tricare's West region did not inherit billing information as part of a contractor change. Users were first told to update their information by late December 2017, but many of those who did so by the required deadline ultimately had their information lost anyway thanks to an enrollment blackout put in place that month.
Humana's problems during the transition did not end there. Retirees who pay fees to Humana by allotment were caused extra confusion when they received a payment change letter even though it did not apply to them. Then, a second system glitch about a month later failed to process the January enrollment allotment payments from more than 4,000 of the retirees who received the initial incorrect mailing.
Additionally, a recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that the company only recently started meeting Tricare's standards for timely claims processing.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.