Blue Cross Blue Shield sucks.

This blog post originally ran on July 2, 2004.

June 2004
Dear Member:

Each year, we review the premium rates for our Bank Depositor’s Group, of which you are a member. Because you have entered a higher age bracket this year, your rate has been adjusted, and this change is included in your new rate.

Effective August 1, 2004, your monthly premium rate will be $x

The need for a rate increase is determined by a number of factors. As medical technology improves, the cost of using technology increases. In addition, as we age, we tend to need and use more health care services. But when it comes to health care, each of us can make cost-saving choices, such as purchasing the generic equivalent of a prescription drug, or scheduling an office visit rather than taking an unnecessary trip to the emergency room. These decisions help keep costs down for you as well as all of our members.

If you have any questions about your rate coverage, please contact our Member Services department at 1-800-xxx-xxxx. You also may contact us by e-mail through our Web site at

We thank you for your Blue Cross Blue Shield membership and wish you good health.



Dear Blue Cross Blue Shield:

I recently received a notice that informed me that my premium would be making a large jump due to my likewise increasing age. I sure appreciate this.

Had I known my premium would be increasing when I hit the ripe age of 30 this past January, I would have scheduled as many doctor visits as I could have in my late 20’s to use up the premium money I have so far invested in your company but never actually used. Or perhaps I would’ve wrapped my car around the nearest telephone pole, thereby getting use out of both my health and car insurance at the same time.

I now understand why people cry when the enter a new decade. It appears to be quite an expensive venture. No wonder people commit suicide at age 40. The savings are tremendous. Do you cover botched suicide attempts?

If you would care to peruse my records, you’ll find that I was quite the meal ticket for your company. I never once went to the doctor, filled a prescription or coughed in your direction. Rather, I paid my premium on time each month and never drew from them. The only hospital visit was on another insurance company’s watch, when I was thrown from a horse and broke my wrist. Alas, at that time I did not wait to schedule a doctor’s visit, but chose to go to the emergency room. I will try to take your helpful advice now and avoid the emergency room for such frivolous needs so that I can save your company money. Who cares about pain?

I can see how general studies that have miraculously proven that, as I age, I become more expensive for you, would be more relevant than actually looking at my health records.

I appreciate the cost saving measures you propose. However, seeing as how your company will pick up a large share of any future prescription drug costs, according to my plan, I have decided I will make the utmost effort to pick top-of-the line drugs. Surely you can understand. As I get older, I get more paranoid about those cheap knock-off generics. Like you said, the price goes up as we age.

Thank you for using the pronoun “we” in the third paragraph of your polite letter. It really made me feel like “we” are in this “together”. More thanks for explaining in fantastic detail the reason my insurance premium has gone up every quarter and has leapt forward now that I’ve hit the decrepit and unhealthy age of 30. I hadn’t understood how technology and aging played such a huge role in my empty checkbook before.

I certainly appreciate how you are doing all you can to stem out-migration of my generation from this great state by upping insurance premiums to a new level where I can no longer pay you and my student loan at the same time. Fortunately, “we” are in this together. I will send you my student loan information so that you can chip in and help out.

I appreciate and accept your wishes for my good health, seeing as how I’ll need it once I drop your insurance coverage in favor of a roll of the dice.


Julie R. Neidlinger
Customer Extraordinaire

8 responses

  1. Blue Cross Blue Shield does, indeed, suck mightily. I have both dental and health with them, on myself, my wife, and my two kids (19 and 21). They don't pay claims. They reject claims for spurious reasons. If you call their customer service (that's a joke) you get somebody in India who doesn't speak English, carefully says your first name at the end of every sentence, then asks you if they have helped you and says "thank you for using Blue Cross Blue Shield" before hanging up on you. They are a bunch of crooks as far as I am concerned.

  2. I am 21 and started using BCBS (Blue Cross Bull %#$& ?) last year. They are insanely ridiculous. They say that my premiums are higher compared to a man the same age because "women" need "special services." It's such bull because they *do not* cover any contraceptives, cervical exams, or clinical breast exams. [Honestly, you would think that they want to help curb unwanted pregancies, detect STDs, cervical cancer, etc. early on. Yeah right.]

    They are definitely crooks. I've heard benefits are better through Medicare than through Blue Cross. Insane.

  3. I'm not glad for all your troubles with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, but I am glad to know other people understand my frustration with this so-called health care insurance company. I pay about $100 more a month than my husband b/c of my migraines (insult to injury) but funny enough I can't afford the migraine medicine I need even with the so-called insurance!!! SO I HAVE TO PAY MORE TO NOT GET THE MEDICINE I NEED!!!!!!!!!!!???? LUCKY ME!!!!!??? Has anyone tried another company that actual helps and cares about our health and not just our money??? Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

  4. I am having a heck of a time with Blue Cross Blue Shield and here is a blog entry with my experiences.

    I am thinking of starting a website where people can file public complaints against the company and with a catchy logo… If I do, I will let you all know.

  5. I'll give you a story from inside the heart of the beast You see, I temped there as a customer service representative for their call center. Only the biggest of geniuses would make a drive to enroll 3 million new members in their plan and do absolutely nothing to add any staffing to be able to handle the higher call volume. Their call volumes went up 70% and yet they waited three months to bring in any new customer service reps for training. Even bringing in a training class of eight did little to moderate the call volume. Unless things have changed since I was there the call volume had so far gotten out of hand that people who were on the line for long periods of time would unceremoniously be booted off the line by the system or would roll over into an after hours call center (this in the middle of the day!)

    BCBS of Illinois has been hit with fines for violating federal HIIPA guidelines. HIIPA is a law designed to keep people's medical records private. Due to poor training of its customer service staff they have had to face fines and are under scrutiny by the government. Think about the next time you call them with a claim.

    Our training class was scheduled in the middle of an audit by some insurance body. Our training was supposed to last for three weeks, down from the four the previous training class had. Oh, but it gets better. The trainer was one of the people who had to assist management while the audit body was there. So instead of three weeks of training we only got roughly half of that time because the trainer was being pulled out of the room so often. Even when she was there you could tell her mind wasn't totally focused and she was irritable.

    To make bad matters worse, we had these people called techs (?) who hadn't been properly trained in the new software package BCBS recently switched to and didn't train any of the new people on the old system (actually three other systems as well). You got onto the floor and it was either sink or swim. This may merely sound like the disgruntled rants of an ex-employee but think about this the next time you call them and can't get through or wait in a phone queue of ungodly interminence or get shuffled around from department to department without getting an answer or have delays in processing your claims.

    It isn't just BCBS, its corporate America and unless we all start talking with our wallets and raising our voices this kind of stuff will continue. By the way, for more about this type of I strongly recommend the book "Your Call is Important to Us – The Truth about Bullshit" by Laura Penny.

  6. I recently watched the movie "Sicko" at home. It really lit a fire under my butt. I am so grateful that somebody has finally taken the time and effort to "out" the medical system in this country. It is about **** time!!! I worked in the allied healthcare industry for over ten years, up until I became disabled as the result of an auto accident. That's when I became a victim to this horribly dysfunctional and corrupt system I was witness to for so long. I am currently carrying COBRA coverage through Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Texas (HMO). And, let me tell you that they are absolutely wretched. I have been in the Emergency Department of my local hospital with horrible abdominal pain, swelling, constipation and nausea several times this week. Earlier today, I noticed a large amount of dark black blood in my stools. Accompanied with a low grade fever, lightheadedness and yet more abdominal pain, I reported once again to the Emergency Room. The doctors there said they wanted to call in a gastroenterologist for an endoscopy. After several hours and some blood work, they returned to my room and stated that they were discharging me home. Feeling no better at all, I asked them the reason for this and they stated my blood pressure and hemoglobin were fine, and that my HMO would not authorize an endoscopy unless I had lost "a lot of blood," or my hemoglobin was low. Now, I don't know how all of you feel about this, but the half-pint I found in my toilet this afternoon was quite alarming. I voiced this concern to the ER staff, only to hear, "well you really need to follow up with this referral we are giving you." Unfortunately, my HMO doesn't recognize referrals from the ER doc, only from my primary care physician, who I have phoned many times only to hear that he is not available to see me for several weeks. I can't see anyone else because my HMO won't cover them. I can't even explain how horrible this is, to know something is horribly wrong with my body and to be hung out to dry like some menial financial liability. I'm terrified and I feel like crap to boot. I know I'm not the only one struggling with my HMO for the privilege of being well cared for in this country. This has got to stop… NOW. JUST SAY NO TO HMO!!!

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