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Hassles reported with Tricare dental contractor

Dec. 18, 2012 - 07:27AM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 18, 2012 - 07:27AM  |  
Seven months after MetLife took over management of TDP, beneficiaries who have contacted Military Times and have posted on MetLife's Tricare Dental Program Facebook page say they are still having issues with billing and customer service.
Seven months after MetLife took over management of TDP, beneficiaries who have contacted Military Times and have posted on MetLife's Tricare Dental Program Facebook page say they are still having issues with billing and customer service. ()
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Air Force wife Kari Kelso was thrilled to learn that MetLife, the company that took over as contractor for the Tricare Dental Program on May 1, would pay $250 more for her daughter's braces than previous insurer United Concordia.

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Air Force wife Kari Kelso was thrilled to learn that MetLife, the company that took over as contractor for the Tricare Dental Program on May 1, would pay $250 more for her daughter's braces than previous insurer United Concordia.

But after a billing snafu with her orthodontist blocked payments to her regular dentist, she's having second thoughts.

Hours on the phone and several unexpected bills later, she misses her "trouble-free years with United Concordia."

"It seemed good at first glance, but to actually go through it and deal with everything, it's frustrating. I'd rather pay more than go through all this hassle," said Kelso, who lives with her husband and two children in Mascoutah, Ill.

Seven months after MetLife took over management of TDP, beneficiaries who have contacted Military Times and have posted on MetLife's Tricare Dental Program Facebook page say they are still having issues with billing and customer service.

Now providers, including 63 in Germany, also are reporting problems related to payment, reimbursement rates and communications with MetLife.

"It is becoming apparent that dealing with MetLife is becoming a liability," orthodontist Dr. Michael Dillon, a former Air Force dentist who has practiced in Germany for more than 30 years, wrote to Military Times.

Dillon said after experiencing billing problems himself, he surveyed colleagues to see whether they faced the same issues.

"One orthodontist in Wiesbaden received only one-third of the total due," Dillon said. "He stated he didn't know whether to laugh or cry."

MetLife spokeswoman Karen Eldred said the company is addressing the problems.

"We are continually working to raise those satisfaction levels higher and have addressed the issues that were raised concerning orthodontic payments as well as overseas reimbursements," she said Dec. 14.

Tricare spokesman Austin Camacho said Dec. 10 that Tricare dispatched a team to Germany in October to address concerns.

"They were able to visit many of the dental officers there," Camacho said. "They confirmed that the offices were satisfied with the processes MetLife enacted to increase the speed and accuracy in which claims were processed and paid."

In a survey conducted by Tricare from August through October, 91 percent of respondents reported they were satisfied with the overall service from MetLife, and 93 percent reported being satisfied specifically with their experience with MetLife handling claims.

"We haven't heard any complaints in quite a while," Camacho said.

But some beneficiaries continue to have issues. Tiffany Kelley, wife of an Air Force technical sergeant at Hurlburt Field, Fla., began having billing problems with MetLife nearly as soon as it took over and is still not out of the woods.

Automatic payments from her husband's paycheck mysteriously stopped after MetLife took over. They have since been restarted, but MetLife continues to send her paper bills, including past-due and warning notices.

"When I call, they say I am up to date and fine, but then I get another bill for two more months," she said.

Like Kelso, Kelley says she's spent more time on the phone trying to solve problems than she ever did with United Concordia.

"We don't want any more late notices because we don't want his command contacted if we are indeed paid up in full, which we are," Kelley said.

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