Opinion: Thank goodness SelectCare is back

By David Lubofsky

The Aetna Nightmare is over.

It’s not good to bad mouth anyone as they leave the island, but in the case of Aetna International and their cohorts saying good riddance is too polite. I have had many encounters with them, all negative, albeit the office in Hagatna does have some nice staff.

From day one, it was obvious to me from my many trips to their office two years ago to get Letters of Authorization (LOA) that Aetna and the mainland staff they brought here had a disdain for Guam and did not see it as a cohesive important community, but that as a cash cow for the bigger company.

It has always been near impossible to get Aetna services off island to see specialists, especially in the Philippines. I had to call and drop into their office near ten times when the plan was initiated to get Letters of Authorizations (LOA) for appointments with doctors who know me and have seen me and I had local referrals for follow up. Once I got what they told me were LOA’s and went to the Philippines. Once there, I was told that I had to go to another office to get real LOA’s which each time was a 2 to 3 hour wait. When I saw my cardiologist, he ordered tests, but of course Aetna and the local office refused to issue me a LOA again for the tests and told me to wait 4 days. Well 4 days turned into weeks and I had a roundtrip ticket dated back to Guam.

Even up to now, they recently sent me to Manila for medical with 3 approved LOAs with appointments, but the Philippine’s doctors refused to deal with Aetna or take the darn LOAs. I had to pay out of pocket and since then have been trying to get reimbursed. Aetna Guam refuses to respond or even acknowledge my many attempts to send in my receipts. I wrote and called them many times including to Mr. Arriola, the supervisor, with no response. Aetna seems like a medical insurance scam that someone must have made money to bring them to Guam. Now, seemingly, they have the intent of sneaking off island owing reimbursements to me and I imagine others for services they authorized with their make believe LOAs.

The best part of slamming the door on Aetna is that SelectCare is on board now for the Government of Guam workers and retirees. Thank goodness, as I can only say good things about SelectCare. Sure, they are in it to making money, but when you walk into their office on Guam or better yet at St. Lukes Global in the Philippines, you feel as if you are with family. They are friendly, efficient and caring. I had a friend of mine from Guam die at St. Lukes and getting his remains out of the hospital was very difficult, but Dr. Santos out of the Global Office assisted us and got many of the outstanding bills removed so my friend Ron could be properly cared for by his family and friends and brought back to Guam.

In my own personal experience, after Asher left and I brought him back to the Philippines to his mother, I wasn’t doing well and every time I went into the SelectCare office for medical assistance at St. Lukes, they were very caring and helpful, like family members. On top of that, my son Azrael got sick during Asher’s 5 days of services prior to his interment. We, as you can imagine, freaked out and rushed him to the Makati Medical Center. I had called the staff at SelectCare and let them know what was going on. Imagine this, calling a staff person off hours to get help to set up an appointment with a doctor on the run. They were on call at that time. On arrival at Makati Medical we were met by Dr. Caedo, a real Pediatrician, who knows us and many other doctors for Azrael that it blew my mind and helped to ease the fear and concern that I had. SelectCare was in the background of this and made it easy for me. (Side note, comparing that with GMH two weeks earlier was day and night on mars.)

I am not sure the cost difference between SelectCare and TakeCare exactly, but as a parent, peace of mind is priceless and that is what SelectCare offered in the past and hopefully in the future.  On the other hand, it’s my opinion from family and friends that TakeCare is more like a local Aetna where not only profits are put first, but the personal touch does not exist. TakeCare has a history of problems on Guam with clinics and the Guam Regional Medical City. They in the past have stranded people who needed care at SDA by dropping them and with the issues at GRMC.

TakeCare also came out strongly against Bill 112-36. Bill 112 is aimed at making doctors accountable for medical negligence if they kill or injure us or our loved ones. This should tell you how TakeCare views their consumers, the people of Guam. For no other reason, avoid TakeCare as they apparently feel that medical consumers should not be protected against medical negligence as defined by Bill 112. Speak to them and let them know how you feel by supporting SelectCare as for sure, if something goes wrong TakeCare will be all about their bottom line, not you or your loved ones. SelectCare may be the same, but at least they were not in our faces telling Guam residents they should not be protected  for medical negligence by Bill 112 as was TakeCare.

Ding dong the witch is dead, ahh, Aetna is gone. Don’t reincarnate them with TakeCare.

David Lubofsky is a resident of Tamuning

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