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AT&T: the globe turns slowly

Att-logo I don't normally post personal grievances, but I'm making a one-time exception for a recent experience that demonstrates why AT&T (my former employer) will probably not make it in the new world. 

(Disclosure: I still have options in the company -- some with a strike price of $105 -- but I sold all my stock some time ago.)

No, I'm not posting about AT&T's notorious problems with iPhone coverage.  More alarmingly, I'm talking about its own internal billing systems, which by my count it has been working on for three decades. 

Here's the story.  One of my daughters has insurance coverage through COBRA, which means I make a hefty $500+ payment every month to get her the same coverage I get as a retired employee. (She aged out at 23 even though she's still a full-time student, but that's another story.) 

This morning she tried to fill a prescription for antibiotics at the local CVS pharmacy and was told that her coverage had "expired." That occasioned a call to Dad and several subsequent calls to CVS and the AT&T benefit department. It seems that AT&T handles COBRA coverage on a month-to-month basis.  I get that. 

But here's where its billing systems come into play.  If I pay the bill on the first of the month, it takes AT&T seven to ten days after they get my check to notify CVS that the coverage is good for another month.  That means that my daughter can't get a prescription filled (under her insurance) until the second or third week of every month. 

That seems incredible for a company that thinks of itself as a leader in data-networking. How hard can it be tie these systems together? Fandango seems to have no problem knitting theater box offices to the web.  Domino's Pizza will let you design and order a pie over the Internet. But AT&T can't link its accounts receivable with one of its biggest suppliers in real time? 

Apparently, it will be easier for my daughter to make sure she doesn't get sick at the beginning of the month.