Round 31: Chase vs United Healthcare

This is Round 31 in our Worst Company in America contest, Chase vs United Healthcare. Vote which sucks more, inside…


Here’s what our readers said when they nominated these two companies:

Chase:
“Nothing about their credit cards is good. They are legalized loan sharks.”
“They like to play musical payment-due-dates.”
“raises rates without notice, etc.”
“I got a credit card with them that was supposed to be 0% interest. The first time I carried over a balance they charged me interest. And than I have received no end to the special offers that they offer through their card. They are the most annoying credit card company out there.”
“Their customer service sucks, they abuse their employees and they are one of the big four behind the Payday Loan industry.”
“I’ve been through hell with Chase credit services”

United Health Care:
“Ruining people’s lives and/or killing them”
“Their service is abysmal, and they’re currently being sued for it. They intentionally underpay both medical providers and consumers.”
“All their employees upstairs got to the cafeteria before I did (at 11:55) and bought up all the Chicken Parm Rotellos for lunch. I really wanted one… I had to settle for crappy pizza.”
“Any company in the business of letting people die is a bad one.”
“operate on “screw the customer” as their guiding principle. United Health also offers the additional service of making life miserable for actual health care providers.”
“absolute bottom of the pile insurance company.”

This is a post in our Worst Company In America 2008 series. The companies nominated for this honor were chosen by you, the readers. Keep track of all the goings on at consumerist.com/tag/worst-company-in-america/

STILL OPEN FOR VOTING:
Clear Channel vs Toyota
Countrywide Home Loans vs Dish Network
Sprint vs Hewlett Packard
Blue Cross Blue Shield vs CNN
Gamestop vs Monster Cable
Bank Of America vs Toys R’ Us
Toshiba vs Microsoft
US Airways vs Washington Mutual
American Airlines vs Blockbuster
Time Warner Cable vs Radioshack
Wellpoint vs Charter Cable
Dell vs Home Depot
Sears vs Citibank
Wal-Mart vs TJMaxx
Mattel vs ATT
Capital One vs Video Professor
eBay/Paypal vs COX
Apple vs SallieMae
Diebold Vs Pfizer
MTV vs TransUnion
CompUSA vs DirecTV
Target vs Best Buy
Allstate vs Verizon
DeBeers vs 1800 flowers
Starbucks vs United Airlines
Exxon vs Crocs
Google Vs Sony
Ticketmaster vs Wachovia
Facebook vs The American Arbitration Association
Comcast vs Menu Foods

Comments

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  1. Oh no, another impending “someone’s life is more important than your interest rate” argument.

  2. Bladefist says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: depends on the rate :)

  3. nrich239 says:

    Tough call….
    I hate both companies but I have to give UHC the edge due to their latest article about un-approving a claim

  4. Anks329 says:

    this is a good match-up, should be interesting to see how this one plays out

  5. Really tough call. I have to go with impact here. Money versus health. Since I’d rather be healthy but broke than sick and loaded, I’d have to say United Healthcare is the greater sinner.

  6. ViperBorg says:

    @Steaming Pile: If your loaded, why not just pay your own hospital bills?

    Oh, and I voted for United “Healthcare”.

  7. Mike8813 says:

    I’ve got a card with Chase. The customer service is friendly. They raise my credit limit pretty much whenever I ask, to whatever I’d like. They’re also one of the only CC companies I’ve dealt with that allows direct download into Quicken. (Not important, I know) Maybe they’re only friendly to people who aren’t indebted to them… Hooray for Chase!

    Side note: “Insert Blank” healthcare company for the win.

  8. am84 says:

    DEFINITELY Untited Healthcare. They are pure evil.

  9. blackmage439 says:

    United Health Care failed to notify me that I was no longer eligible for insurance under my father’s plan. The assholes told him they were sending out a notification “packet” to me. I’m pretty sure I would have noticed that. Now I have to scramble for the lesser evil of BC/BS from my employer, if I’m eligible for that at all. Their last open enrollment period was in January. My UHC insurance expired in… December. Screw you, UHC!

    On the other hand, Chase has sent me a bogus, shady offer from their “non-affiliated” affiliates about once a month. How can a company be not affiliated with Chase when the offers come in a CHASE ENVELOPE?! Very sneaky and underhanded. However, their cashback rewards trump both Capital One and Discover… Damn.

  10. johnva says:

    United Health Care is probably the worst of the worst out of the big health insurers (who constitute possibly the worst industry in America). They should easily be in the final four. Their CEO received $1.1 BILLION in stock options as compensation (yes, “billion” with a ‘b’). Read about it here. This, while they were claiming they needed to retroactively cancel people’s coverage and routinely screw providers on payment. It’s clear where the “savings” from those shady practices were going.

    Chase, while not perfect, is not that bad of a credit card company. They have really good rewards cards and have paid me 5% cash back on my groceries, gas, and drug store purchases for several years now. I’ve never had serious problems with them.

  11. rioja951 - Why, oh why must I be assigned to the vehicle maintenance when my specialty is demolitions? says:

    Awesome maechup.
    But what if it end in a United healthcare VS Blue cross/Blue shield?
    Would it be an automatic default or the top position be shared by the evil of evil healthcare?

  12. Geekybiker says:

    Man, Chase is evil incarnate. Its pervasive systematic evil that reaches every customer. UHC has done nothing to me.

  13. felixgolden says:

    Chase took over my old bank, and the experience has been hell. Their new trick is to change the date of my deposits inthe system so they can still claim they are clearing my checks within the guidlines.

    The other one is to charge me a check printing fee normally charged when the customer requests a copy of a cancelled check, though I have not done so. What I tracked it down to, is when they receive an electronic payment – I pay my auto insurance, etc., they print out a copy so they can then rescan it into the system, and then charge me a $3 fee.

  14. SegamanXero says:

    im gonna say united health care; cause at least when chase screws you, you wont die cause your life saving surgery was denied.

  15. razremytuxbuddy says:

    Wow. Do we really have to choose between these two evil empires? They are both strong candidates for the Final Four. I just can’t choose to let one of them off in the first round.

  16. vividblurry says:

    I like Chase. I have two credit cards with them. Never had any problems. Good rewards program with Chase Freedom.

  17. Buran says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: Well, it’s true.

  18. JiminyChristmas says:

    I had to vote for UHG. They are the sort of company that gives capitalism a bad name, and Bill McGuire is the poster boy for it all.

    He’s actually not worth $1.1billion anymore. He had to give back several hundred million dollars to clear up that little stock option backdating problem he ran into.

    UHG’s new CEO, Stephen Helmsley, really isn’t much different. Just that he’s sitting on $600million+ instead of $800million.

    The latest UHG scandal involves their Ingenix subsidiary. They compile health care cost information used to determine ‘reasonable and customary’ charges. It’s alleged that Ingenix has manipulated data in order to lower payments to doctors and hospitals which, of course, greatly helps the part of UHG that is paying claims.

    As for Chase, I can’t complain. The CC I have with them is the best deal I’ve ever gotten: When I opened the card I got a 0% fixed APR for balance transfers for 1 year, with no fee. The standard APR for purchases is 8.99%, and the card has a decent rewards program.

  19. @Buran: Not necessarily. I think a utilitarian would say that screwing millions of people over years and years creates a greater collective disutility than letting a couple of people die once in a while who didn’t read their policy terms carefully enough.

    With that said, insurance companies get hammered in these contests because any sort of customer service breakdown is construed as “Oh my god, they’re trying to kill me.” Not defending UHC here, they might be truly reprehensible, but the cited comments on them are almost purely emotional…I don’t think it’s the company’s fault if your insurance lapses or you don’t read/understand the terms of your policy.

  20. theblackdog says:

    I am surprised it’s so lopsided towards UHC, I expected it to be neck and neck

  21. Mr_D says:

    Jumping on the “Chase never gave me any static” bandwagon. I do all my banking with them, too.

    While I have 2 credit cards with them, I always pay on time, and recently I decided I would no longer carry a balance and paid it off. My interest rates are 9.49 and 7.49. No rewards, though. I may have to bother them to add rewards to one of them.

    They did do something somewhat shady – when I opened my checking account, they signed me up for one of those credit cards without my knowledge. Of course, this was in the days of 0% interest for 12 months, so I didn’t mind too much. Ah, 2006.

    Now, UHC? I never heard of them before reading Consumerist. Of course, they’re health insurance, so they’re automatically the more evil company. It’s like relativity: health insurance companies are absolutely evil in all reference frames.

  22. kabuk1 says:

    I have to vote for Chase, they’re shady as hell. My ex ran up $400 in overdraft fees last year. After killing him, I deposited over $300. Balance should been around -$100, right? Nope, still -$400. Then they closed the account & couldn’t tell me where my $300 went. So they basically STOLE my money & told me that there’s no recourse. So yeah, fuck them.

  23. johnva says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: Uh, no. It’s not just for “emotional” reasons that people think UHC is bad. Read the comments above. They have been systematically screwing healthcare providers out of reimbursement, while also pulling shady practices on policy-holders. We aren’t talking about just stingy stuff, but things that are essentially outright fraud in my opinion. I’m not talking about UHC specifically here, but a lot of problems that are common in the health insurance industry. UHC is just a particularly egregious offender and one whose executives are making a killing, quite literally.

    And obviously you aren’t familiar with the background on retroactive policy cancellations (something that isn’t limited to UHC)…this isn’t due to the customer letting their coverage “lapse” or not understanding the terms of the policy. It’s things like someone getting cancer and your insurer unilaterally deciding they are going to retroactively cancel ALL your coverage because you failed to disclose that you occasionally suffered from seasonal allergies. It specifically targets people that have expensive covered conditions. That isn’t an attempt to prevent fraud by patients…that’s an attempt to weasel out of responsibility for paying.

    There is a laundry list of nasty practices by health insurers that I could go into. These things are just getting more prevalent because of the rising cost of healthcare. It’s becoming pretty much a high-stakes gamble whether or not your insurer will actually pay any given medical bill. They are bordering on massive organized criminal organizations.

  24. krom says:

    A tough one, but denying people life-saving treatment > denying people financial stability.

  25. woolygator says:

    Why are these 2 company meeting now. They both should be in the finals.

  26. @johnva: I think comments like “in the business of letting people die,” “screw the customer as their guiding principle,” and “absolute bottom of the pile” are firmly in the emotional camp without additional details. All I can find on here is that UHC charged someone $90 and made someone else pay $50 more for pills. Chase tries to screw me out of a lot more than $50 every month, not to mention that UHC plans appear in the top 100 of USNews’ Best Health Plans list.

    I am indeed familiar with retroactive policy cancellation (I don’t know it’s “obvious” that I’m not), but please cite a source for an insurer cancelling someone’s cancer coverage because they failed to disclose seasonal allergies. If you didn’t disclose that you smoked and then tried to file a claim for lung cancer treatment, I would cancel your policy too.

    Finally, one of the complaints in the comments was a policy lapsing and the person not being reminded, which is why I mentioned it. Obviously, you aren’t familiar with that.

  27. steamboatdevil says:

    I HATE United Health Care. I took my three children in to have their teeth cleaned. Untied DENIED the clam becasue it had been less than six month since the last cleaning. Turns out it had been five months and 29 days since their last cleaning. Had I waited one more day United would have paid the claim. When I complained I was told by several reps that I was SOL. JERKS!!!

  28. reznicek111 says:

    *All* the chicken parm rotellos? Well dang them to h-e-double hockey sticks!

  29. Juggernaut says:

    I went thru a BK 8 years ago and to regain my credit I got a Chase CC. And then I got two more, they were all at or above 19% when I opened them. I never had more than 3 or 4k on them combined but kept them and the balances just to get my credit scores back up. So 2 years ago, when my scores finally topped 700, I applied for and received a card from another bank at 6.99%, I paid off and cancelled the Chase CC’s in the space of 20 minutes (even the one with no annual fee). These relentless bastards have sent me over 10 offers a week, every week, since cancellation all at or above 12%. WTF is that?

    Having said that and having read the horrors stories here about United HealthCare, how could you vote for anyone other that an insurance company in this poll?

  30. ptr2void says:

    UHC has been fine to my wife and me. My wife has MS and has had numerous MRIs, chemotherapy, and takes an injectable medication which costs ~$1500 per month. Never has there been a problem with coverage. When her neurologist ordered an MRI of the spine in addition to the standard MRI of the brain — which occurred on a different day — Ingenix called a couple of weeks later simply to find out if this was a work injury. When told she was disabled and had MS, they simply thanked her and apologized for bothering her. Perfectly reasonable.

  31. azntg says:

    As much as I dislike Chase (and have personal experiences with them), the Consumerist taught me that Chase is chump change compared to United Healthcare.

  32. johnva says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: Read this.

    (The above link is about a case involving WellPoint, where they cancelled a woman’s coverage after she got breast cancer because of undisclosed minor preexisting conditions that were totally unrelated to the cancer). I agree that insurers should have some remedy if the pre-existing condition that was not disclosed is directly relevant to a condition for which a claim is being made. But what they are doing is basically auditing accounts of people who get diseases that will cost a lot of money, and trying to find ANY pretext to cancel their policy (by comparing their medical records to what the patient put on the disclosure form). The link above says that during a lawsuit employees testified that it was policy to do this to people who made expensive claims, and that it didn’t matter whether it was a willful non-disclosure or not.

    If the insurers are so concerned about catching fraud, why don’t they just perform the records audit themselves before issuing insurance and collecting any premiums? It seems to me that they want to just collect premiums from people who pay on the grounds that they will be covered, and then not pay out when something actually does happen. I’m glad insurers are getting sued (and laws are being changed) over this practice.

  33. @johnva: Yeah, that’s pretty reprehensible, I agree.

    But that’s Wellpoint. Perhaps they should be in this matchup instead?

    I don’t work for UHC or anything, I just hate Chase that much and I can’t stand to watch them lose.

  34. JiminyChristmas says:

    For a concrete example of UHG’s most recent problems, try this:

    Cuomo Announces Industry-Wide Investigation Into Health Ins…

    The gist of the complaint:

    Under the United insurers’ health plans, members pay a higher premium for the right to use out-of-network doctors. In exchange, the insurers promise to cover up to 80% of either the doctor’s full bill or of the “reasonable and customary” rate depending upon which is cheaper.

    The Attorney General’s investigation found that by distorting the “reasonable and customary” rate, the United insurers were able to keep their reimbursements artificially low and force patients to absorb a higher share of the costs.

    Cuomo’s investigation also found a clear example of the scheme: United insurers knew most simple doctor visits cost $200, but claimed to their members the typical rate was only $77. The insurers then applied the contractual reimbursement rate of 80%, covering only $62 for a $200 bill, and leaving the patient to cover the $138 balance.

  35. johnva says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: Wellpoint is not alone in these practices. UHC specifically is notorious mainly for their obscene executive compensation and for their practices involving their dealings with healthcare providers (though I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they are playing the retroactive cancellation games too).

    I’ll admit my bias: I don’t really blame the insurers for this so much as I blame the government policies and society that make our healthcare dependent on private insurers. This sort of brutal cost-cutting is to be expected if you provide healthcare mainly through for-profit private insurance companies, especially given how expensive healthcare has gotten. I think the solution is to nationalize the health insurance industry and fund it as a necessary cost of maintaining civil society (kind of like the military), instead of viewing it as a profitable industry. These insurers are just doing what the free market demands of them, which is to find “creative” ways to make bigger profits in a tough environment.

  36. @johnva: But with a nationalized system, we know empirically from other countries that quality of care drops and wait times lengthen drastically. Pick your poison…

  37. johnva says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: Actually, that’s not correct that you can make a blanket statement that quality of care drops and wait times lengthen drastically. It’s simply another type of rationing of healthcare (our current system here is essentially rationing based on ability to pay). Quality of care and wait time in places with nationalized systems is dramatically better than the quality of care that people with no insurance get in the U.S. So while yes, all countries have to “ration” healthcare, many do it more equally than we do here. Priority for care should be given based on medical need, not ability to pay.

    Moreover, it’s not like we don’t have long wait times and sometimes poor quality of care here, too. I have had to wait many months just for an initial appointment with a specialist in medical fields where they are in short supply (actually, primary care is one of those areas with a doctor shortage in the U.S., partly because primary care docs make FAR less money than specialists do here due largely to the way that insurance and Medicare/Medicaid reimburses them). Our healthcare system is FAR from the best in the world, especially if you account for the price that we all pay for the services we get.

  38. Angryrider says:

    Healthcare in the charge of Capitalism? How could it go wrong?

  39. WraithSama says:

    Can we have a Worst Company runner-up for Chase to compete in? ;)

  40. @johnva: I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with the assumptions that you make. As “unequal” as you think it is to ration healthcare based on ability to pay, is it any fairer that medical need is the dispositive factor? What incentive is there to live healthy when all that’s going to happen is that you have to disproportionally subsidize AND wait your turn after people who smoke and eat Big Macs every day and cause themselves medical emergencies down the line?

  41. trujunglist says:

    Wow, this is a really good and interesting matchup. To me UHC automatically wins because of how they make people miserable by doing things like killing them.

  42. @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: To clarify, I absolutely agree that when it comes to ER visits, medical needs should be prioritized, but that’s already the case in the U.S., so I’m assuming you mean doctor’s appointments.

  43. johnva says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O:

    The best incentive to live healthy is BEING HEALTHY. It’s not a good quality of life to be sick all the time. It’s not all about monetary incentives; that’s a weirdly American idea that people won’t do things unless you pay them to do it or penalize them for not doing it. Lots of health issues have little or nothing to do with lifestyle issues that are under our control, and yet our current system penalizes those people just as heavily as it penalizes people who are the cause of their own health problems. So yes, I believe it is more fair to prioritize care based on something other than ability to pay. And it’s more efficient, too, since people who can’t pay won’t wait until their health problems reach a critical point before seeking treatment (thus ending up costing everyone more money in the end).

    As for prioritizing only ER visits based on health needs, that’s already proven to be a failed system. It has led to the poor relying heavily on ER facilities for primary care, since those are one of the few places that can’t turn them away if they can’t pay. That in turn has led to massive wait times and reduced quality of care for genuine emergencies. So what you’re saying is not a good solution. We want to encourage those people to seek care from a primary care doc where things can be caught early and where it doesn’t cost so much to treat them.

  44. Raignn says:

    United Healthcare denied my mother breast reduction surgery for the last 5 years because they said it was cosmetic. Did I mention she’s 5 feet 3 inches and a 34J? And has 15 years of doctor’s records about neck and back troubles including muscles randomly tearing?

    My parents (who are not rich by any means) finally had to break down and pay the $8,000 out of pocket as my mother needed the surgery.

    UHC deserves nothing less than the 7th circle of hell.

  45. Raignn says:

    I forgot to mention, they cover men’s breast reduction surgery… but not women’s!

  46. johnva says:

    @Raignn: I’ve read that that is a particularly difficult procedure to get approved as “medically necessary”, even though it clearly is in many cases including your mom’s. Apparently a lot of insurers are using criteria that have nothing to do with medical science to determine “medical necessity”. Your parents might want to look into lawyering up.

  47. @johnva: You are thinking unrealistically if you think that “being healthy” is a strong enough motivator to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the world’s fattest country. And while I am all for living healthy, and some conditions are not controllable via personal choice, damned if I’m going to pay for the majority that are.

    You say that “free” ER care exploited by the poor leads to massive wait time and reduced quality of care, which is exactly what I said would happen and you disagreed with. Apply the same paradigm to primary care and people will do the same thing, overexploit it and make appointments for reassurance over any tiny ailment. Even if there’s no medical need, that person takes up an appointment slot just to be told there’s no problem, and you’ll have to wait behind them.

    You offer up a lot of platitudes, but I really don’t understand the mechanism under which your proposal is truly viable. Healthcare is not a right. Whether it should or should not be might be debatable, but as it stands now, it’s not.

  48. chrylis says:

    I’d almost decided I couldn’t pick between these two, then I remembered that many, many people can’t choose their insurer; it’s selected for them by their employer. Having an essentially captive customer base easily tilts this one toward UHC.

  49. JustaConsumer says:

    JP Morgan Chase is legalized loan-sharking. They should immediately go on to the next round.

  50. Frank Grimes says:

    Maybe’s it becuase my UHC plan is at the top of the food chain and my company can afford to keep our rates rather low ($260 a month for a family) we have had relatively few problems with UHC and today in fact had a fantastic experince with them on the phone. They quickly found an error the hospital made with a payment that would have cost us over $1000. My wife is also in the medical profession and based on her experinces UHC is far batter than most, especially BC.

  51. randomd00d says:

    It looks like UHC will win..er..lose this one. But I have to say…

    I have not had any problem at all with UHC and they have covered things I would consider above and beyond the call of duty.

    Examples: Massage therapy at chiropractor surprisingly, expensive asthma medication.

    I don’t think that people can draw a conclusion based on isolated events. After all, your service with insurance WIDELY VARIES and is mostly based on who happens to be working your claim.

  52. JiminyChristmas says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O:

    I don’t know where you are getting your emperical knowledge, but look somewhere else because what you’re getting is both oversimplified and mostly wrong.

    The OECD is a very handy data source for comparing countries when it comes to measures of health. Compare the US with a few of our peer countries: Canada, UK, France, Germany, and Japan.

    We spend anywhere from 30%-80% more on healthcare than any of them. Yet, they all outperform us in terms of the basics: overall life expectancy and infant mortality. Likewise, they all outperform the US when it comes to preventing deaths from treatable chronic diseases, like diabetes.

    The only measures in which the US excels involve preventing death from acute illnesses, e.g: heart failure or cancer.

    Overall, the best you can say about the US is that if you become acutely ill, and have good insurance, you more likely to survive. Otherwise, people in countries with national health insurance on average live longer, healthier lives…at a substantial discount relative to what the typical US citizen pays in taxes, insurance premiums, and out-of-pocket health care costs.

  53. Darehead says:

    Chase you are the ultra Anti-Christ. My loath for thee is infinite…………….

  54. am84 says:

    @chrylis: Absolutely. I WISH I had the option of changing insurance providers, but, unfortunately, UHC is the only one my employer provides. And I’m not married, so I can’t be put on anyone else’s plan. It sucks.

  55. @JiminyChristmas: I said two things: 1) Wait times will be longer, and 2) Quality of care will go down.

    None of those statistics reflect anything about waiting time, but wait you will. According to the Fraser Institute, 25% of people undergoing elective surgery in Canada wait more than four months, while that percentage is only 5% in the US.

    If you need a coronary bypass, you are five times more likely to get it in the US than in Canada, and eight time more likely than in Britain. The US has the highest percentage of patients getting more than 20 minutes of care from a doctor. That’s all meaningless?

    The numbers come from here:
    [www.boston.com]

    Overall life expectancy has so many extraneous variables that I doubt privatized health care is a critical factor. And people have written ad nauseum about how our infant mortality rates (Second to last in the world? Please.) are consistently miscast.

    Who’s oversimplifying here?