The Decision to Stop Paying My Kaiser Health Plan
(Update, December 10, 2016: Watch the video of HBO’s John Oliver video on multilevel marketing at the end of this post. Relate much with IMG or any other MLM company?)
(Update, July 17, 2016: Don’t forget to watch video at the end of this post. A scambuster shares tips on how to spot a pyramid scam.)
On the 2nd quarter of 2012, I got myself a healthcare plan from kaiser International Healthgroup through their brokerage firm International Marketing Group (IMG), popularly known in the Philippines as IMG. Why Kaiser has to see new plan-holders through IMG, I don’t know.
I got the healthcare plan primarily out of fear. The IMG broker or agent who talked me into getting one was a great talker, full of persuasion skills and marketing techniques in her sleeves. I was an easy prey for her. She used scare tactics – or in other words, fear – on me.
She got me scared about my financial future. She got me scared into thinking about my financial stability. She caused in me fear and anxiety about my employment. She was a master. She persuaded me to get a plan so I can have a stable financial future. And yeah, she even told me I should get my girlfriend one.
Anyway, she did cause me to plan about my future and to consider a second job or part-time. It’s really hard times indeed. And money don’t grow on trees.
But I don’t like the way she got me into getting a Kaiser healthcare plan. I should have known she was never concerned about my future. She was just concerned about her downline. I should have known I was falling into a multi-level marketing (MLM) scam.
In the Philippines, MLM is also commonly known as networking, and networking scams abound in the country. A lot of people are into it, including teachers, public servants, and even church workers.
I did not get a Kaiser healthcare plan right away. I did not even sign up for IMG membership, even if the IMG agent tried to persuade me, telling me there’s an ATM nearby. I should draw money right away so I can sign up for IMG membership and purchase a Kaiser plan – so I can start my journey to financial stability.
However, I never helped her increase her downline – because I did not bring any new people to IMG. Right after I paid for the Kaiser plan and IMG membership, she told me I should recruit three people to join IMG, so that I can earn some sort of promotion. We should work as a team, so goes her smooth talk again. In her words, we should educate people on financial matters and help them make better choices for their financial future.
But truth is, we should get people to join IMG and purchase financial products they market from legitimate financial services providers, (mutual funds, real estate, loans, etc). Those entering IMG are told to get a Kaiser plan first before they decide to get another product. In the words of one IMG CEO, you cannot get an investment or mutual fund plan if you have not purchased a Kaiser plan yet.
No Kaiser healthcare plan, no mutual fund. Plain and simple!
However, months later, I got myself a mutual fund account through a certified financial adviser, not through IMG. I went to an investment firm to inquire about their mutual fund product, which is marketed by IMG.
The person I talked to told me he does not trust International Marketing Group (IMG) in handling their mutual fund products. He narrated to me an incident where an IMG agent failed to remit a client’s payment or investment funds to the firm.
The person I turned to for the mutual fund matter happened to be someone the firm knew. So I relied on trusted hands and got myself a mutual fund.
And back to my Kaiser plan, I paid the installment for 19 months. I had paid about PhP 39,539, not including the policy fee and the fares (to the IMG office). It was all for nothing.
I stopped paying the Kaiser healthcare plan over some discrepancies and inaction of both the IMG agent and Kaiser.
The last time I went to the IMG office to pay the monthly installment, a staff informed me about about finding my plan to be lapsed. But lapsed, how could it be? I contacted the IMG agent about this, and all she told me was to pay for reinstatement so I can still pay the old rate.
I sensed problems, so I contacted the local Kaiser office. A phone call was not enough to clarify some matters, so I met with a Kaiser representative who showed to me my payment history.
On my payment history, I found out inappropriate and lacking details, as summarized:
- Some payments I made were not according to the proper dates. For instance, the payment I made on January 5, 2013 was dated February 28, 2013 on my payment history. The temporary sales receipt I have don’t lie.
- Lack of receipts. One time the IMG agent did not hand me a temporary sales receipt. What she handed me was an acknowledgement receipt. She told me she ran out of temporary receipts. The Kaiser rep told me it shouldn’t be.
- With the lack of temporary receipts came too the lack of certain payments.
- A few payments I made were past due date, but still within grace period. Thanks to the lack of receipts and the recording, the last payments I made were beyond grace period.
I met with the IMG agent to discuss over these issues. I pointed out to her about the missing receipts and payments, but she insisted she remitted them. But if she did so, why were they not reflected on the payment history?
Instead of helping me out and investigating the matter, she blamed me for my own problem because I did not meet her to get my official receipts and that I made payments past the due dates.
I countered that the lack of receipts and the corresponding payments caused the problem, not my paying past the due dates (but still within the grace period). And even if I did not get my official receipts, the payments should have reflected in my payment history. And with paying past the due dates, that was not a problem because she told me if I cannot pay before the due date, I should try to still pay within the grace period and that it’s all right.
The IMG agent still insisted she remitted the payments, but she cannot show evidence to back up her statements. I sensed she was up to no good. When I asked if IMG could have caused an error in reading the particulars of my payment and recording my payments, she replied she doesn’t know.
On the case of the acknowledgement receipt, I was never handed one by the staff who informed me on the lapse and to whom I made most of my payments. One time she ran out of temporary receipts, she took me to the Kaiser office so I can make my payment and receive a temporary sales receipt.
I had the hunch the IMG agent have not remitted the payments that lack the receipt.
And I was disappointed with Kaiser for not helping me. They ignored my emails, and the Kaiser rep did not respond to my later text messages. No developments from him. Nothing heard from the IMG agent when I pressed her more on the matter.
The IMG agent just told me to pay for the reinstatement as it is useless to dispute as the payments were already recorded. I sensed her lack of concern for me. And for that, I saw her as a swindler. She showed no willingness to dig deep into my problem.
I wanted to see the inappropriate details of my payments corrected, something which the IMG agent looked disinterested. Just charge it to experience, she further told me.
It was then I decided to stop paying.
Hard decision it is, but I cannot do business with swindlers, with companies that do not have excellent customer service. I refuse to entrust my money to people who are only concerned with their downlines and commissions. In other words, people who got rich by recruiting other people. They do not contribute to the innovation of goods and services.
I should have known that IMG agent is just one of the many people who got into the financial services just for the money – when she told me to withdraw money so I can start my Kaiser plan.
I cannot say much about International Marketing Group (IMG), but I see them as just another multi-level marketing (MLM) / networking business, whose people rely on aggressive recruitment of people to boost their personal income. Recruitment is their only strategy that brings them their income, not sales and innovation. You make money by signing people up. The more people you recruit, the more moeny you will have.
IMG is just a marketing agency, not a financial services provider, hence their name. If IMG claims to be a financial services provider, its name should be International Financial Brokers Group. But no, they are just into marketing like all MLM / networking groups. IMG is just a plain third-party service provider – a marketing service provider, not even an advocacy or NGO.
MLM groups are only into income-building through recruitment. The type of networking they do is prospecting (in order to recruit and earn from recruitment). Their networking is money-making, not relationship building and professional camaraderie.
Recruit three people in IMG and you get to become marketing director (MD). Why not recruiting director???
Why I’m writing this? Well, I want to release my frustration, express my disappointment… and regret over a stupid mistake that I made. In the times to come, this will be the biggest regret of my life. The money that I had paid for, I could have already bought a laptop, a tablet or digital camera to pursue a few hobbies.
I have no personal healthcare plan of sorts now. I just have a healthcare plan provided by my current employer, plus my SSS and Philhealth. I am taking steps to take care of my health.
I write this as to give myself two lessons to learn: One, money is hard to find and to decide about. Two, there will be many people like that IMG agent and Kaiser rep.
As parting words, I’d like to share this video: