It was my intention this week to write about health insurance. Today, however, the frustration level over a life insurance policy I own has reached such heights that the only healthy way for me to work though my annoyance is to write about it. As I learned from a previous posting when we explored the always fun topic of toilet paper, apparently corporate America is sensitive to what’s written about them. All it takes are the talents of a sophomoric blogger to get their attention. I therefore find myself backed into the position of publicly exposing how a major life insurance company handles its current customers, and my own sorry efforts to find a resolution.
In 2012 I switched from my former employer’s group life insurance coverage to a private plan. A financial consultant who looked at my retirement portfolio convinced me to make the move because of what he explained are inherent cost disadvantages of group coverage: since there are always going to be individuals in a covered group who will not live as long as others, insurers need to charge higher rates for everyone who is a part of the pool as each participant begin to age. The longer I stayed in the group plan, the higher my individual rate for it would become in the years ahead. I was highly encouraged to instead find an individual term policy for myself on the open market with a fixed monthly or yearly cost. I followed that advice.
After passing a physical exam, I was offered a policy from a company called Aviva Life based in Des Moines, Iowa. The only requirement Aviva mandated was that I had to pay for the policy automatically each month directly from a debit to my checking or savings account. Although I’m not in love with such auto-pay provisions, I already had some with a handful of other companies. So I gave Aviva my banking information and also specified the day of the month I wished for them to take each draft. Like clockwork they began taking the payment on the correct day with absolutely no problems.
I wasn’t quite ready for the policy to actually payout to anyone yet, but I was at least happy with how I was paying for my coverage.
Then in July of this year Aviva sold my policy to Accordia Life of Nashville, Tennessee. I’ll never understand these short-term relationships we all seem to have now with insurance companies, mortgage holders, etc. One day we’re all happy and blissfully singing Kumbaya together, and the next we’re unceremoniously disposed of to a completely new entity.
You don’t want me anymore, Aviva? Fine. All you Iowans like to talk about is corn, ethanol, and your confusing presidential caucuses anyway. Accordia Life, I’m now yours, Baby! Let’s have some barbecue and then head over to the Ryman for an evening with Vince and Amy.
But not so fast. It seems I’m not just getting into bed with Accordia alone. No, this has become a ménage à trois with a second company called Alliance One. Accordia, you hussy! Well, when in Nashville, I guess. It’s a big world, and I guess I have to go with the times. If I’m forced to now love two companies at once, I shall. While Accordia will officially be my new life insurance provider, Alliance One will handle all administrative details over my policy.
I soon learned that this is decidedly not love. It’s more like triangulation. Although Aviva and Accordia made it clear that both my policy and the payment arrangements would remain the same, it turns out that Alliance One has other ideas. Since August, the payments for my policy have been withdrawn according to a schedule that makes sense only if you happen to like haphazard and random phenomena. They’ve never even come close to the day still officially associated with my payment. Payment is not only taken three to four weeks late, but so far it hasn’t even occurred in the same month.
I’ve called the uniquely named “customer service” center for Alliance One so many times now that I’m already on friendly terms with several of their representatives. Just like the Stockholm Syndrome, I have come to sympathize with each and every one of them as they nicely try to explain to me how hard and difficult the transition has been. But over weeks and weeks of calling, I have a limited reservoir of sympathy left in me. My attempts to speak to management have unfortunately also gotten me no where. Promises are made to fix and solve the payment problem, but it still hasn’t happened.
Additionally, Accordia is acting like a spurned paramour. It refuses to even return any of my calls or e-mails, forcing me to go back to Alliance One for answers. Honestly, I don’t for the life of me understand how others cope with these confusing, French-like relationships. I’m much better when I operate in a more traditional and monogamous liaison.
The irony in all of this lies with the fact that Alliance One deals with collections. A look at their web page shows that they also work as a debt collection agency. This is a company that calls you when you fall behind with your credit card. You’d think they’d know a thing or two about collecting payments!
Unlike my Beijing masters who control the federal government annuity I receive through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), I actually do have options here. I could shop around for a new life insurance company. But I’m also three years older than I was when I began this policy, and it’s more than likely that the cost would be more than I’m paying now. This is why I desperately want Alliance One to get their act together. Perhaps my public shaming here will spur someone in either that company or Accordia to pick up the phone and resolve this problem.
Guys, we’re talking actual love here: surely you don’t want to screw up what has the makings of a beautiful friendship, do you? Call me, let’s talk.
Until next time…
UPDATE (March 1, 2016): Since this was written and published, it is now my most-read post. I have received a handful of validating e-mails from insurance professionals commenting on the state of affairs with the Aviva/Accordia policy transfer, and Alliance One’s role as Accordia’s representative.
Alliance One has drastically improved its role in drafting the payment each month through an automatic withdrawal from my checking account. They are now taking it within approximately five days of my specified date. This is admittedly progress. But unfortunately I still have no absolute and certain knowledge of when payment will be made, and it does force me to over-monitor my funds each month in order to make sure I never suffer from any overdrafts at my bank. Other companies with whom I have similar arrangements somehow manage to draw from my checking account on the exact, agreed-upon date. I wish Alliance One could do so also.
On the now rare occasions that I’ve called to ask about this, I continue to get a vague and non-specific response from Alliance One’s representatives. They quote from a new policy (for me anyway) that estimates payment will be drawn within “three to five days” of my specified date. Hope springs eternal!
UPDATE (May 27, 2016): I now feel I spoke too soon in the last update. Alliance One continues to struggle beyond their 3-5 day processing period. Today marks six days late from the date that they are supposed to draft payment out of my checking account. Although once again my account is current in their system, I am still having to over-monitor my funds to make sure I keep what I owe them in my bank account. This is needlessly frustrating. I am hoping that someone in the land of Oz that is Accordia might be taking notice of this posting.
UPDATE (August 20, 2016): Somehow I missed this this New York Times article from 2015. It certainly explains Accordia’s business practices in exhausting detail. For those like myself who started out with Athene and Aviva, I at least now understand how and why I ended up with Accordia. It’s certainly a tangled web of regulatory hijinks. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/business/dealbook/insurers-bypass-rules-to-add-hidden-risk.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0
UPDATE (September, 23, 2016): Today marks three days past the official, appointed day that my payment should be drawn from my checking account. Of course, as I get to the end of the month, I have to watch my money and spending even closer to make sure I have enough on hand for when Alliance One eventually takes that payment. Will it now be Monday of next week? Tuesday? Wednesday maybe? I have no idea — it’s a mystery.
I recently changed car insurance companies and now have Geico. I am entering my third month with them. They too have an automatic payment drafted from my checking account, and earlier today I received an email from them reminding me of my upcoming payment in October. Note how they worded the email (below):
“Your Payment Reminder:
The next payment on your auto policy is scheduled for 10/03/2016. On that date, we will debit $80.87 from your account ending in xxxx.
Need to review your payment? GEICO Mobile makes it easy. With the swipe of a finger you can view your billing statements, update your account information, and much more.”
Now isn’t that the way it SHOULD be???? Alliance One and Accordia, THAT is how you handle customer relations. It’s pro-active and helpful. They even have a mobile app that allows me to track it all from my phone! Imagine!
UPDATE (October 12, 2016): I received from Accordia today a letter informing me that they have processed my cancellation request. I submitted it last month and my policy is now terminated. I had a term life policy with no surrender value. Unlike so many of you who have policies with a cash value, I was able to engage a relatively easy divorce from Accordia.
I was required to fill out a Surrender Form #15032. The full name of the form is “Surrender Request For Life Policies.” I had to make two phone calls to Alliance One representatives in order to get the form sent to me, but I did eventually receive it via e-mail. It was explained to me that there is an internal review process between Alliance One and Accordia which takes place prior to a customer receiving this form. It took just under two weeks for them to process everything after I snail-mailed it back to them.
About two months ago, I signed up with another insurance company for the exact same amount of coverage that I’ve had under this policy. It will run for ten years (when I’ll be 66), which is shorter by five years with the policy I had under Aviva/Athene/Accordia. But there is also an “affordable” conversation offered to a whole life plan, and I might look into that later. For now, though, I’m pleased with the term policy that I’ve arranged.
Getting a new policy did require my having to go through another physical examination with a nurse (blood tests, etc.), but I’m happy to report that my earlier fears about a new policy costing more money — since I’m now four years older — never materialized. In fact my new policy is a solid three dollars less than what I’ve been paying to Accordia. I stayed ahead of the inflation train!
I am assured that my billing with the new company will be drafted from my checking account on the exact date I have specified. If I want to change it, I just need to log into their customer website and request that change (“hoooaah!”).
After some thought, I’ve decided not to reveal the name of the new insurance company on this post. However, feel free to send me an e-mail if you are interested and I’ll be happy to let you know privately. My contact information is listed above in the “About” section.
I will share with you that I paid a one-time fee of $32 with my bank to prevent Alliance One from making any unauthorized drafts in the future. It’s money well spent in order for me to sleep at night!
This marks the end of my own odyssey with Accordia and Alliance One. For the many of you who continue to struggle with your policies, I wish you well in reaching some kind of favorable resolution. I am very grateful for all the messages of solidarity over the last year. I will no longer write any updates, but I will keep the comment section open for others.