TELEPHONE INTERVIEW — TAPE #135, SIDE #1
Q: Mark Russell BellV: phone voice (Coca-Cola Foods)A: Andrew Frost (Coca-Cola Foods representative)M: Mark Jackson (Blue Cross of California representative)T: Annette (Blue Cross of California representative)
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: THIS TAPE IS AMONG THE ‘WHISTLE BLOWING’ PORTION OF THE BOOK. THESE TWO CALLS WERE RECORDED ON JULY 30, 1996.)
V: Thank you for calling Coca-Cola Food. For quality assurance purposes, calls may be monitored. If you are calling concerning the Minute Maid Game Gear promotion, please call . . . If your call concerns the Minute Maid “Toy Story” Unwrap The Magic promotion, please call . . . For all other questions, you will be helped by the next available representative.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: THIS MESSAGE IS REPEATED IN SPANISH.)
A: Thank you for calling Coca-Cola Food. This is Andrew.
Q: Oh hi.
Q: I’m calling about the Minute Maid Premium All Natural Made With Real Fruit Juice Grape Punch.
Q: I guess I should preface this by saying that I usually have the fresh juice.
Q: So yesterday after I went to the gym I had some and I became very, severely, like, poisoned. I had stomach pain and —
A: Digestive-type —
Q: — diarrhea — and, then, today I’m sweating like a pig this morning. I do feel like I’ve been poisoned.
A: This product — if it spoils —
Q: Well, it’s not spoiled. It’s — well, I think it’s because I usually have fresh juice and my body doesn’t, you know, really relate well with all the chemicals that they put into it.
A: Well, there’s no chemicals put into it. It’s sweet so — but this product is one that is perishable like milk and it spoils —
Q: Well, see, the date, though — it says August 26 is the expiration date.
A: Yeah, regardless of that — it’s perishable just like milk and if it’s not refrigerated properly —
Q: Well, but it was refrigerated — I mean I drank it on the way home from (“I”) the store.
A: It’s probably nothing you’ve done. It’s maybe possibly how it’s been handled somewhere but if it is spoiled and you consume enough of it —
Q: But it wasn’t spoiled.
A: It may not be noticeably spoiled by taste but it never-the-less could be spoiled, in which case it could cause some discomfort like stomach cramps and diarrhea. It is possible.
Q: Um-huh. Has anyone else called about that?
A: Occasionally. These products spoil just like milk.
Q: But I’m sure it wasn’t spoiled because I went to a ‘Foodless’ — I mean ‘Food 4 Less’ store and, you know, they keep them pretty well there. I mean I’m calling from Los Angeles.
Q: So I mean I’m sure it was refrigerated correctly. It’s just that —
A: Well, actually, you’d be surprised that the majority of the problems we have with our products is — (“COME IN” “EMPTY” “PROBLEM”) it may not be the store. It might be a distribution problem or simply somebody may have picked it up and walked off with it but a lot of times in the initial stages of spoilage you’re not going to be able to tell by the taste but —
Q: But I’m (“CER”) — no, I’m sure it wasn’t spoiled. I just wonder what — I mean it does — I mean it does have the chemicals listed on it. I see it does have the high fructose corn syrup —
A: Which is sugar. It’s something that product — it’s an all-natural product that there’s no artificial colors, preservatives —
Q: What are the “natural flavors”? I’m just trying to figure out what’s in here so I can avoid having it again.
A: The natural flavors are, basically, the secret recipe part of the product. But generally what that would be —
A: — is an oil or essence that they derive after pressing the fruit. They’d use it to adjust the taste — (“FILL IT”) going to be listed as an ingredient on the product but it would be derived from those fruits or pressed.
Q: Oh, I just noticed too it says it has less than 2% — grape juice?
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: THE CARTON SAYS “GRAPE JUICE FROM CONCENTRATE, LESS THAN 2% OF EACH: PEAR AND APPLE JUICES FROM CONCENTRATE.”)
Q: And juices. And that’s such a low percentage.
A: Probably about ten I think these are normally.
Q: What is it?
A: I think it’s — above the nutritional label you’ll have the overall juice content.
Q: “Contains 10% fruit juice.” (“YEAH”)
A: Yeah. That’s pretty normal for that. (“SO THE”)
Q: So water is most of it.
A: Yeah. Absolutely. Any juice will be mostly water. But let me go ahead and report the problem you had.
Q: Okay. I bought it at Food 4 Less on Sunset Boulevard.
A: On Sunset. Okay. And Los Angeles?
Q: Yes. (“UH-HUH”)
A: What is the cross street for the store?
Q: Let’s see — let me think. Western? I don’t know. Some place down there.
A: And when did you buy that?
Q: Yesterday around 3:30 — (“THREE-THIRTY”) around 3:30.
A: And this happened, then, how long after consuming it?
Q: Well, I went to a store and they didn’t have any of the fresh juices that I usually have so I thought, “Well, what’s one time? It won’t hurt me. And I just got this and I was having it on the way home and I just became so ill — I can’t remember being this ill except, well, maybe the last time I went to McDonald’s and had a hamburger but —
A: (laughs) Okay. (“UH”) Uh, but you describe it as stomach cramps and diarrhea, then, basically?
Q: Yes. Stomach cramps — and right now I’m sweating like a pig and it’s not — (“IT’S — IT’S”) it’s a cool day.
A: Normally, a product like this because of its acidity when it’s spoiled — (“BUT IT”)
Q: I know it wasn’t spoiled.
A: It could possibly cause some digestive problems but once it’s out of your body you wouldn’t have any ill effects from it because it is very —
Q: Have you ever had any callers who usually have just the plain juice without any derivatives or additions?
A: And have this problem?
A: Absolutely. Every single day.
Q: Oh my goodness. (“YET”)
A: Juices in general are just as perishable as milk.
Q: But I’m sure it wasn’t spoiled.
A: You might not be able to tell.
Q: Yeah — well, no, but it was — at the store I mean — it says “August 26 — best if used by above date.”
A: Yeah, that’s — regardless of the date, it just takes a couple of hours above 40 to cause a problem. And let me get the letters and numbers after the date there.
A: So I can report that.
Q: Okay, well you’ve been very nice. After the A, 1.
A: And then there should be a time around there somewhere.
Q: 22:03. (“THAT”)
A: Coming from Anaheim. And what is your name, please?
Q: Mark Russell Bell.
A: Sorry — what was the last name?
Q: B — E — L — L.
A: Alrighty. And what is your address, please?
Q: (I give him my address)
A: Okay. I’m going to go ahead and contact quality assurance with that. If you’re concerned enough, we can always have the product picked up and analyzed.
Q: Well, I dumped it out — I was (“JUST TO”) — I was so horrified I dumped it out.
A: Okay. Well, I’m 90% sure it’s just a problem of the product just getting mishandled somewhere. This is something that — this is what we see when we put in a problem with the product.
Q: Okay — well, yeah? Well. I’m sure it has to do with me having fresh juice usually and my body just not having —
A: Could be. Could be. But if you have any concern later on, you know we’re here from Monday to Friday from 8 to 4. My name is Andrew. I’ve got to log in the complaint here.
Q: What is your last name?
A: It’s Frost. F — R — O — S — T. And I’m going to go ahead and send out a complimentary coupon for some of our orange juice product. (“DON’T BOTH”)
Q: Don’t bother. I just have the market-fresh. I learned my lesson.
A: Okay, well, I could reimburse you for your purchase then. I’d like to do that at least.
A: Do you know how much you had to pay for that?
Q: I don’t offhand.
A: Okay. Well, I’ll go ahead and guesstimate for you and we can put in a check for, say, $5 or something. (“THE”)
A: As soon as that comes in from our accounts payable, I’ll send that out. That should probably take about two weeks or so to do that.
Q: Are there any products that your company makes that are fresh juice without anything added to it?
A: Well, all of our orange juice products are just orange juice. There’s nothing added to them. We’ve got a couple of varieties.
Q: But they must preserve — they’re not, like, fresh, though.
A: Well, the only thing that would be fresh would be something that is just squeezed and then put in the store. But, unfortunately, because the shelf life is only about a week for a product like that —
A: Those spoil very, very quickly because there are a lot of things in there that make it spoil. A lot of enzymes and things.
Q: Well, it’s the consumers’ fault because if they demanded fresh they’d have it.
A: Yeah. Yeah. (“THIS”) This is true. But the product that we do have — we’ve got two processing methods. One is from concentrate and one is not from concentrate. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. The one from concentrate — what that means is after it’s fresh they will remove about 80% of the water which concentrates it. Then, that’s frozen. Then, they would add water back to it to bring it up to full strength. Some people maybe prefer the other because it has the original water. However, there is a nutritional difference from one that’s from concentrated. They’re preserved a little bit better and it might have a little bit more nutritional value. The frozen orange juice is something that is quite interesting. Let me explain why. It is pure juice with some of the water removed and it is frozen right after it is squeezed. So that really — it’s very close to fresh-squeezed and when you add your own water — if you’re using distilled water, for example, on taste tests it comes out better than the not-from-concentrate products, which is one that’s simply pasteurized. That’s how they give it that shelf-life so they can market and sell it in the store.
Q: Are you reading from something right now?
A: No. No. (“UH-UH”) I’m just — this is just something I know.
Q: Because you know I know that fresh orange juice tastes totally different from any of those processed drinks.
A: It’s usually the water, I think, that maybe would be something you’d notice. But something that is fresh as defined by fresh — it would be something that’s squeezed and then sold in the store immediately and that would be — usually it’s like a Mom and Pop place that’s close because of the distribution problem. It’s got such a short shelf-life that (“IT”) you don’t see —
Q: Well, I’m definitely not going to have an Coca-Cola products because I used to drink Coke but I don’t think my body can take that either anymore. Do you ever get calls like that about Coca-Cola?
A: Well, we’re a little bit different from them. We are part of the same company but we’re the —
Q: Oh, I see.
A: — juice and juice drink division. We make Minute Maid, Five Alive and Hi-C products. But, anyhow, I’ll go ahead and put in for the check request and reimburse you for that. (“UM-HUH”) And as soon as I get that I’ll send out that letter. (“UM-HUH”)
A: And if you have any other questions about that, you don’t hesitate to call.
Q: Well, I’m just trying — I just wanted to put some of this information in my book because I’m trying to do a wake-up call on the industry, I guess.
A: Okay. (“I LOVE”)
Q: By the way, are you any relation to the poet?
A: (small laugh) Well, that would be nice. No. (“HOW DO” “OR”)
Q: Maybe you are.
A: I doubt it. I don’t think so.
Q: Because you have the same name. So you have to come from somewhere on the same family tree.
A: Possibly. (“YOU KNOW”)
Q: I found out that I’m related to Alfred Hitchcock so —
A: (laughs) (“IT’S”)
Q: You never know who you’re going to find.
A: Oh, this is true.
Q: Okay, well, thank you very much.
A: Okay. I’ll go ahead and take care of that. And if you had any other question, like I said — we’re here Monday through Friday from 8 to 4 Central time. (“WELL I’VE BEEN” “I”)
Q: Shouldn’t have to be a whistle-blower on this because it’s just our whole society. I went into that ‘Foodless’ store and there’s nothing edible. It’s all preservatives and there’s nothing edible. My nutritionist (“I”) is very good at telling me what foods to get.
A: Well, I appreciate your concern to call and I will let quality know about that.
Q: Okay. Thank you.
A: Thank you.
Q: Okay, bye.
( . . . )
M: . . . Mark speaking. How can I help you?
Q: Oh hi, Mark.
Q: Hi. I was just going through my Blue Cross folder because nothing really that I have received from Blue Cross looks like a bill or anything. I have the various paperwork in front of me. Do you have my information in front of you?
M: I sure do.
Q: I had an accident earlier in the year where I passed out at a convention center. Do you see all those various supplies (“FOR THE”) — an ambulance and everything?
M: Uh-huh. (“AND I JUST WAS”)
Q: What is the status of those various bills?
M: Do you know what date those were?
M: How much was that for?
Q: Well, there were different amounts. There was the (“YOU KNOW THE”) Huntington Memorial Hospital, the emergency — (“WAIT”) let me think — (“AN”) the ambulance and all those various things.
M: Okay, for the one on 3-17 for Huntington Memorial, how much was that? (“LET ME SEE”)
Q: Okay. I have to look for my copy of what I sent in. (Pause) I have the doctor’s amount here that I had sent in. That came to $421.
M: Okay, what date was that? (“ON”)
Q: That was the same. (“THREE SEVEN”) That was the date of service.
M: Okay. Now I can tell you — let’s start with that one. I’ll explain that one to you. That particular claim. Because you went to a non-participating provider and your deductible wasn’t satisfied, $184.53 was applied to your deductible.
Q: And, earlier in the year, how much money was applied to my deductible because I had some treatment done earlier in the year?
M: Okay, I can tell you where you are in your deductible right now.
Q: Well, it has to be over the $1,000 mark because of all these bills. (“K”)
M: You have met your deductible.
Q: Right. What does that mean?
M: That means that we start paying. Before benefits can start working —
Q: No, I understand that but, see, I don’t have any bills.
M: So I don’t think I understand your question.
Q: What do I pay?
M: Okay, you want to know what you pay for these bills?
M: Oh, okay.
Q: And I want to make sure I was given all the credit I was due for earlier in the year.
M: Okay, for the $421 bill?
M: You’re going to be responsible for that because your deductible wasn’t met.
Q: Okay. And how much of my deductible was met before that? Because I see I had paid $421 and $53 to my Medical group and $165 to my shrink.
M: It’s going to take me a second because I’m going to have to go through and tally all this up.
( . . . )
Q: That’s how much I paid in earlier?
M: No, that’s when your deductible was satisfied.
Q: When was it? Oh — the date?
M: I’m sorry? (“WHA”)
Q: Did you give me a date?
M: Yeah. That’s 5-16-96.
Q: Right. Well, first of all, because I still don’t understand exactly (“WHAT”) what bills I have to pay and what I don’t. (“UM”) Let me ask you — well, I’ve been led to understand that emergency situations like this were all paid by Blue Cross.
M: Okay. Your deductible has to be satisfied. We get a bill in and if your deductible’s not satisfied we’ll apply the negotiated rate to your deductible.
Q: Right. So —
M: It’s not satisfied. (“SO”) You’re responsible.
Q: Okay, so that — we talked about the doctor. So now there’s also the hospital bill and the ambulance bill.
M: Okay. And you want to know how much you owe on those?
M: Okay. For the particular portion so — let’s say, for $421?
M: For $421 you owe the full amount.
Q: That was for the doctor.
M: Okay. That was for — that $421, was that for the doctor?
Q: I think so. That’s what I had put in for. His bill came to $421.
Q: I just have the impression that nobody’s really on my account and it’s just falling through the cracks.
M: Have you received your explanation of benefits?
Q: Yes, but that’s not a bill and in this case where I’ve gone over my deductible, none of this reflects that.
M: Okay, I don’t think I’m understanding your question.
Q: Okay, well, the bills that I have with my explanation of benefits — it has long surpassed the $1,000 mark on my deductible.
Q: But none of these explanation of benefit for claim sheets explain that.
M: Do you have a number where you can be reached at? I want to just look at something (“UH”) more.
Q: Okay. (I give him my number)
M: And your name is Mark?
Q: Mark Russell.
M: I’m going to give you a call back in about (“OKAY”) five — ten minutes.
Q: Okay, fine.
Q: And, by the way, last year I had a horrendous problem with Blue Cross and I don’t know if that’s in your records.
M: I’ll go through and check everything.
Q: Because last year they didn’t pay. I mean basically I had gone to a mental facility on the basis that they accepted Blue Cross and they were on the list of Blue Cross-approved places. But after their review board looked at it, they said that they wouldn’t pay it.
M: Oh, okay.
Q: So I’m still carrying that burden as well.
M: I’ll go through and I’ll look at all of it.
Q: Okay, what’s your last name, Mark?
Q: Jackson — oh, you must be a relation to my friend, Allison Jackson.
M: (laughs) No. Okay.
Q: Okay, thank you.
( . . . )
A: . . . Annette speaking.
Q: Oh hi, could I speak to Mark Jackson?
A: Sure. And what is the Social Security number for that?
Q: (I give her my number) He was going to get back to me in a few minutes but it’s been a few hours.
A: Oh, okay. And what’s your name?
Q: Mark Russell.
A: Okay. Just one moment. (pause)
( . . . )
A: Is there a number where Mark could reach you at because —
A: — apparently he tried to call but your line’s been busy for quite some time.
Q: Well, I have an answering service and he could have left a message there.
A: Yeah, because he said he let it ring and ring and ring, hoping that it would pick up on a machine but nothing happened.
Q: Well, he obviously has the wrong number.
A: Okay. (I give her my number)
Q: Thank you.
A: Okay. No problem.
A: Uh-huh. Bye-bye.
( . . . )
M: Yes. Mr. Russell in?
Q: Yes, it is. This is Mr. Russell.
M: Hi. This is Mark from Blue Cross.
Q: Oh, hi. Oh, thank you.
M: You’re welcome. I did try calling back today. The first time I tried it was busy and I tried back again about fifteen minutes later and it didn’t ring. Nothing picked up.
Q: It usually switches over to Pacific Bell.
M: Yeah. Nothing picked up. I let it ring about fifteen times to make sure nothing would pick up.
Q: Okay. (“THEY”) By the way, I did give you one incorrect figure before. That cyst problem only cost $141 earlier in the year and not what I had told you before.
Q: Because I was going through my receipts.
M: You’re going to have to refresh my memory a little bit on this. What were we discussing?
Q: Oh, okay. My account. Do you have it in front of you?
Q: Okay, well, basically, because in terms of when I pay — went past the $1,000 mark —
Q: Because I have the various receipts in front of me. I had one therapy session which was $165, I have $100 for outpatient —
M: Are you talking about your deductible?
Q: Well, I’m just telling you some of the things that I’ve paid.
Q: So, anyway, I’m going down my list. I had $165 for my therapist, $53 and $141 for my infected cyst treatment and at least $100 that I paid myself for outpatient treatment after my fainting episode. Since then, I’ve had three other major bills involving the ambulance, Huntington Memorial Hospital and the doctor’s fees. So I wasn’t quite clear exactly if I was getting the benefits that I should be. (“I KNOW”) What my insurance broker told me when I spoke to him when I had my problem the year before with the mental treatment that (“AND THEN”) Blue Cross ended up not paying — he said that everything else basically was covered such as — let’s see. I wrote this down. Well, he did say once you pass the deductible Blue Cross pays 80% and then I pay 20%.
M: Okay. Let me go ahead and — okay, you went to a participating provider, correct?
Q: Well, I went to Huntington Memorial Hospital.
M: Now this is for your therapist? (“NO”)
Q: See, what happened is I had a fainting spell. (“WHICH WAS UN”) It was an accident.
Q: And (“SO”) they took me by ambulance to Huntington Memorial to the emergency room.
M: Um-huh. (“THEY COLLECT”)
Q: Because I was bleeding. And, (“SON”) anyway, various people told me different things. Like they thought Blue Cross would cover it all or whatever. (“GA[DGET]”) My insurance broker did say that if it was like an auto accident or something like that, (“THAT”) Blue Cross would pay. So I’m just trying to figure it —
M: I’ll just go on. Ambulance. After you’ve met your deductible, as long as that ambulance is a preferred provider — that’d be necessary.
Q: Well, it was an accident.
M: Yeah, as long as it’s medically necessary.
Q: Well, it was medically neccessary.
M: Yeah. I’m just reading you the policy. Let me see something real quick.
Q: I mean this was an accident.
M: This is only a summary of coverage . . .
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: SEVERAL PORTIONS OF CONVERSATION CANNOT BE DISTINGUISHED.)
M: . . . a waiting period may apply, we have no way of knowing until we see the claim.
Q: Do you have the ambulance bill on record?
M: Do you know what date of service that was?
Q: Yeah. I have my file in front of me.
M: Okay, let’s just go ahead and we’ll go down these.
M: So when this telephone call is over you will know everything and not be in the dark about anything.
Q: Okay. Good.
M: Okay, so what was the date of service of the ambulance and the amount?
Q: It was March 17th and the amount was — hold on. I have to get that bill out. When I called them, they said they would send it directly to you. There’s a stack of papers so that’s why it takes me a moment to look. Let me put the phone down for a moment.
M: Okay. (pause)
Q: I must have misplaced that one (“AT”) for the moment. (“OKAY” “PUT IT” “WHEN”) But I think it was $425. (“THINK YOUR”) Around there. $421. I’m still looking for it — (“I WRITE THAT”) wrote down the various amounts and I think it was $421 for the ambulance (“SINNER”) because the doctor’s bill is $425. And I found that. And the hospital was another amount.
M: How much did you say? The $421 (“ONE”) — what was that for?
Q: The ambulance.
M: With that particular bill there was $184.53 applied to the deductible. And they were a non-participating provider. So for ambulances the policy you have, which for non-participating providers, we do not cover that.
Q: But this was an accident where I didn’t have any choice in the matter.
M: Yeah, but this — we don’t cover. . .
Q: But I don’t understand.
M: This was a non-participating provider. Your deductible wasn’t satisfied at the time. We applied $184.53 to the deductible. There was a balance leftover of $32.40.
Q: But are you saying that the reason for that was because it was not a signatory or — I mean why would you pay a portion of it and not all of it?
M: We didn’t pay any of that. (“AND IS IT”)
Q: Yeah, but I’m unclear what were the terms of my policy? My insurance agent said that if there was an accident or something that I was covered.
M: Okay, let me put you on hold.
( . . . )
Q: I found the explanation of benefits for the ambulance which came to — it said $445. (“N”)
M: $445 for the ambulance? (“EB”)
Q: Well, that was the original total and then it said deductible applied $189.58 and then the total due provider was $240.66
M: Okay. That one I have now. We were looking at the wrong one. Now let me just go through — with this particular one, since it was a participating provider we applied $189.58 to your deductible. We paid the provider $204.34. All your responsible for is $51.08.
Q: Oh, that’s all I’m supposed to pay?
M: That’s all your supposed to pay.
Q: Okay, I’ll send that to the city.
M: To whatever the bill is for.
Q: Okay. (pause) Okay, but will they bill me this amount or — I don’t understand.
M: Now on your EOB it should explain what you’re responsible for.
Q: Well, you just said it was for $51.08.
M: Does that show on your EOB?
Q: What’s that?
M: That’s your explanation of benefits. That little paper that —
Q: Yeah, it says copayment $51.08.
M: That’s how much you owe.
Q: And I send that to the city of Pasadena.
Q: Okay, I’ll have to find the bill and I’ll send it to them.
M: Okay. So we understand about that one. Correct?
M: Let’s go to the next one.
M: You just tell me —
Q: Okay. Explanation of benefits for claim. The Huntington Memorial expenses.
M: And how much was that bill for?
Q: Originally it was $559.62.
M: Okay, when this bill came in your deductible wasn’t satisfied. So what we did on this bill was apply $395.31 to your deductible. The leftover balance is $134.31. So on this one you’re responsible for it.
Q: For how much am I responsible for?
M: Okay, they were a non-participating provider.
Q: What is the difference between a non-participating provider because in an emergency situation you can’t choose.
M: That’s just the way — I mean we could — we can’t take that — you know what I mean? (“I MEAN”)
Q: See, what happened is I passed out and cut myself so they — I couldn’t even talk. I mean they just loaded me into an ambulance and took me to the hospital.
M: I’m going to put you on hold for a second, okay?