Round 46: Blue Cross Blue Shield vs Sprint

This is Round 46 in our Worst Company in America contest, Blue Cross Blue Shield vs Sprint!

Here’s what readers said in previous rounds about why they hate these two companies…

Blue Cross Blue Shield:

“BCBS is just plain evil. They make a profit from deliberately denying service not based on your medical needs but on their bottom line. I personally have had nothing but trouble with them since the very first day I was “covered” by their organization.

BCBS is the best rationale I can think of for government run healthcare, and that’s saying a lot. “

“Blue Cross bid our contract for insurance assuring us that they would provide the exact same services, THEN turned around a year into the contract and denied claims we could take with our previous services.”

“Big Pharma, shame on you.”

“So I was just reading an email that I received from my insurance carrier (Aetna) about their delay in their ending coverage of monitored anesthesia for colonoscopies. They said because of misinformation given to the public from websites (like the consumerist I’d imagine) they delayed pulling the plug on covering anesthesia. They didn’t say they were abandoning their plans just yet just delaying them until they can strong arm their members into agreeing to stop using monitored anesthesia in favor of the cheaper sedation methods. I would guess most of the BCBS affiliates will do the same and drop their coverage of monitored anesthesia if they haven’t already.

As I get older, insurance companies make me very nervous and anxious. That’s a shame.”

“Did you know that if you lose your job and are told your coverage is “through the last day of the month,” so July 31 or whatever, that only means through midnight ON July 31? So nothing on July 31 is actually covered? Standard procedure for them.”

“As I’ve posted before, health insurance companies take 40-45% of every dollar WE give them and pocket it as pure profit. Consumers have GOT to wise up to what’s going on and demand their representatives do something about it NOW. Health insurance is something that should not be allowed to operate in a ‘free market’ fashion – health care is something that should be inviolate, highly ethically bound. MDs are supposed to abide by high high ethical standards, so should health insurance, pharmaceuticals, biotech, and hospitals. This is a very fixable problem – one that the f$#@ing politician piece of feces are great at pointing OUT to us, but are useless in coming up with a viable solution. (like so many other failed governmental policies such as the ‘war on drugs’, the penal system, the social welfare system, etc.)”

“Blue Cross Blue Shield hands down. CNN can’t hold you hostage when your life hangs in the balance. And BC/BS was in it up to their eyeballs (late 1960s) when health insurers were theorizing how to convert their product from a function of the free market into a commoditized necessity shifting costs from what consumers were willing to pay in a competitive pricing environment to the five stage process of creating socialized healthcare which guarantees their profits. They suck beyond all comprehension. Further I cannot say without risking banishment.”

“Health insurance companies are murdering swine whose practice of denying services ultimately kills people.”

“Blue Cross Blue Shield just dropped my 85 year old grandparents with no warning. Oh yeah, my grandmother just was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Coincidence? What a bag of flaming @*&%#s!”

“Anthem BCBS turned me down for individual coverage because I had cancer six years ago, and take an anti-cancer med. They told me to feel free to reapply once I’ve been “sign, symptom and treatment-free” for 15 years. My oncologist says the anti-cancer med I take is considered “treatment.” So in order to get Anthem to cover me, I would have to go off the drug that keeps me from getting cancer…for 15 years.

Does that make sense to you?

My consolation in all of this is that I expect Anthem BXBS to be gone in 15 years. And I’ll still be here. “

“Any health company that tries to screw their own customers in a proactive way deserves to burn in hell.”

Sprint:

“My family has been with them for upwards of 10 years and CSRs treat us like garbage. Granted, we stick with them (it works for us), so some people will inevitably say “stop being part of the problem”, but really, they do need to improve customer service. The last few times I’ve called, I’ve spoken with people who barely, barely speak English.”

“A good friend of mine (a Sprint Customer) is from Kansas City, home of Sprint’s corporate headquarters. He tells me that when he drives by the corporate compound, he gets no cell phone reception, making the sprint office an invariable “dead zone” of cell service. What else could you ask for?”

“My friend has had Sprint for years and has gone through three different phones, all of which get poor signal and don’t receive some incoming calls.”

“Sprint is absolutely abysmal. After my friends dropped them, Sprint said they would be getting a $45 check from Sprint since they were canceling after a month to month. Sprint went ahead and billed them again for the next month and wanted $60. This is two months after he canceled service with them.”

“I made the mistake of signing up with Sprint several years ago, and immediately learned that Sprint has the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced anywhere. My bill was paid via auto debit, so from day one my history of bill payment was flawless. They thanked me by giving me too many bad billing and customer service experiences to describe here, but I can summarize it as a culture of meanness with customer service reps and store salespeople that seemed to be playing a game of “beat the customer.””

“Sprint had found numerous ways to screw me over when I was with them–up until they renewed my contract without my permission (which took away a discount I had with them for being military). Screw you Sprint, AT&T treats me far better than y’all ever did.”

“Every encounter I’ve had with Sprint Customer “Service” has been negative. Used them as a LD provider 20 years ago; gave up after three or four months of having them change access codes without warning. Tried again a few years later when I had a Sprint-USAA co-branded calling card. The one time I tried to get a question answered about a bill resulted in me cutting the card up and mailing it back. About 5 years ago, my kid purchased a Sprint cellphone plan, decided it wasn’t working as desired, and returned it within the 14 day grace period. Took two letters and a threat of small claims action to get the deposit refunded.

It’ll be a cold day in Hades before any telecomms service labeled “Sprint” is used in this household. “

“Sprint. I’ve actually been with Sprint for about six years, mainly because I get a discount on my bill as a perk of a job I had, well, about six years ago. The problems I’ve had with them have been pretty minor in the long run, but a real pain in the ass in the short run. For instance, they have a spending limit on your account; when you’ve exceeded your minutes and reach your spending limit, your service is disconnected. Without warning. This has happened to me at least twice, when I’ve been traveling and find myself in roaming areas for extensive periods of time. Even an automated text would be nice, Sprint!”

“Years ago – I think this was in the early 1990s, we had Sprint long distance. I called customer service because there were dozens of little $1 charges on there that I didn’t call. Now, some years before that (mid-80s)I and some friends of mine were teenage hackers who “bounced” through legitimate phone numbers, also no doubt leaving a little trail of $1 long distance bills, to eventually get to a point where you could make a long distance call and not pay for it. I doubt this can be done nowadays, but back then it could. So when these little fees to numbers of people I had never heard of showed up on my own bill, I knew exactly what it was. So I called customer service and complained someone was “bouncing” on through my account in this manner and the service rep told me there was no such thing as I was describing, and refused to credit my account – and his manager said the same thing. When this went on for 3 months, we canceled our long distance account with Spring, because every time I called I got the same idiotic answer – even after I explained to one manager, finally, how to do it! Clearly they were idiots then I don’t see that they’ve improved any since.”

“Until recently I had no problem with them. I’m in a rural area, and my reception is questionable sometimes, but so are all the other carriers here. Our network is still 1xRTT, but the only carrier who isn’t is Verizon, and they’re insanely expensive for the same plan. It’s irritating, especially since Sprint has promised us EVDO upgrades for two years now and has completely failed to deliver.

The straw, though, was that Sprint has been calling me over and over and over trying to sell me new phone/new contract. The people are nice enough about it, but I’ve asked them over and over to stop freakin’ bugging me to buy a new phone. I’ve told them I’m not getting a new phone until they go EVDO. They’re all very nice, all promise me I’ll never get another call, and I usually get another one in a week or two, lather, rinse, repeat. So that’s two things now that they’ve promised me that they can’t deliver on. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose they’re minor quibbles, but it all adds up to Sprint promises not being worth the time it took to get them. “

“I worked for Sprint, so I know how bad they really are. I quit after a year working for them. I was put on written warning for not hitting my quota of new sales. I guess all the customers that I saved for them that were spending hundreds of dollars a month just didn’t matter to them. Or the fact that in every other performance metric I scored in the top percent (customer satisfaction, accessory sales, upgrades, renewals, lowest number of cancellations, etc.). I was often sidled with doing the manager’s job because he would hide in the back room from irate customers or would leave early all the time. I’m good at diffusing situations and good at problem solving, so I would end up fixing mistakes made by other reps all the time. When they put me on written warning, I told them that they could put me on written warning all they want because I refuse to do anything that I find morally reprehensible (such as adding 3 lines to an old lady’s account when she’s on a fixed income, telling people they can’t keep their phone numbers when they upgrade so the have to add on another line to get a phone cheaper, etc.). The funniest part of all this is that after I left, they called me to offer me a job training their staff on customer service. Glad they see value in keeping their customers happy now(not!)!”

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: Bank of America vs Monster Cable, US Air vs Microsoft, Time Warner Cable vs American Airlines, Time Warner Cable vs American Airlines, Home Depot vs Wellpoint, Wal-Mart vs Citibank, Capital One vs ATT, Sallie Mae vs eBay/Paypal, TransUnion vs Diebold, Best Buy vs CompUSA, DeBeers vs Verizon, Exxon vs United Airlines, Sony vs Ticketmaster, Comcast vs The American Arbitration Association

Comments

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  1. Devidence says:

    Seriously?

    Last time I checked Sprint has no responsibility for people’s LIVES and general health. Anyone who voted for Sprint needs to re-think some priorities.

    “My cell phone doesn’t work.” Vs. “My father was denied his surgery.”

    Come on…

  2. Bladefist says:

    Blue Cross is a non-profit company. So any comments as to saying they are just in it for the profit, are pretty much completely wrong. If they were acting like a profit company, they would lose their non-profit status. As a person who worked in a non-profit company before, that status is a touchy subject and its easy to lose if you aren’t careful.

  3. mwwilk says:

    People (Consumerist people, too) — Blue Cross Blue Shield is NOT a single organization. There are many “plan companies” that operate under the BCBS brand (typically a single state, or group of states). Example: Horizon Blue Cross of New Jersey vs Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois (which also has TX, NM and OK in the same group). They have their own internal operating procedures and people are likely to have different experiences with each BCBS operating company. One claim filed to one BCBS Co. might be paid, whereas the same claim filed at another BCBS Co. might not pay. Realizing that is part of the problem. I’m not saying that their aren’t horrible issues with any of them (I have my own complaints, believe me) but get educated before you start lumping them all in together.

  4. Raignn says:

    Since BCBS is in charge of helping people stay healthy and alive they get my vote. I hate Sprint with every fiber of my being, but at least their awfulness does not affect people’s ability to live a healthy life.

  5. Juggernaut says:

    I don’t know if this bothers anyone other than me but BCBS of NJ seems to spend millions on advertising… along with a bloated beauracracy rather than putting it back into care/plans.
    I guess that kind of runs into every company on the WCiA… it’s maddening that none of these companies can take care of the customers they have but continue to get larger. Almost like an elaborate Ponzi scheme – once they got you, they fuck you, get someone else and then fuck them too!

  6. zentex says:

    Where is the 3rd option “to hell with both of ‘em!”?

    damnit.

  7. Squeezer99 says:

    i can’t vote for either, i like both

  8. strixus says:

    BCBS of GA has been pretty good so far… no issues for anyone in my family who has the coverage. No where NEAR as bad as the lousy insurance company I have, Peirce Admin. DONT EVER USE THEM.

    Sprint, on the other hand, has pretty much wrecked a friend’s credit thanks to billing mistakes that they refuse to fix. To say nothing of brain dead CSRs and signal that’s about as reliable as an alcoholic with a gambling problem.

  9. stopNgoBeau says:

    @mwwilk: Agreed, but Consumerist didn’t listen the first time. Hype makes for good hits.

  10. Trai_Dep says:

    @mwwilk: You know, Exxon has MANY more tankers than the Valdez, most incorporated as individual companies. Therefore, let’s give them a walk on that pesky Alaska thing. All’s forgiven, we’ll even pick up the clean-up costs. Where do we send the taxpayer-paid reimbursement check to?
    Absurd, huh?

  11. ElizabethD says:

    Wow. I thank God or Cthulhu or whomever that I have BC/BS of RI coverage through my employer (and yes, I do pay a big monthly chunk for family coverage).

    The co-pays for office visits are incredibly reasonable ($10 for a regular visit or physical; $15 for mental health or dermatologist), all tests and scans are covered, and they have gotten me through several surgeries and ER visits without owing money.

    Also, a few years ago they revamped their customer service system so you always get to talk to someone pretty much right away, and they are very helpful. (This wasn’t the case in the past.)

    I’m sorry to hear not everyone enjoys such good coverage through Blue Cross as we seem to here.

  12. Mr_Human says:

    @Bladefist: Actually some BCBS companies are non-profit, while others are for profit. Empire BCBS in NY is trying to go from non-profit to profit.

    BCBS is an association of 39 independent companies. So YMMV.

    If this were a poll on brand perception, it might make a little more sense.

  13. JustaConsumer says:

    BCBS should have gone against Well Point.

  14. @Bladefist: More FUD from the Bladefist.

    From Wikipedia ([en.wikipedia.org]): “Some of the state plans have been merged to achieve economies of scale. Many plans are administered by not-for-profit organizations, while others are for-profit companies. (Though all Blue Cross Blue Shield plans must pay Federal income tax under the Tax Reform Act of 1986, some plans are still considered not-for-profit at the state level.) The 14-state WellPoint is the largest Blue Cross Blue Shield member, and is a publicly traded company. Other multi-state organizations include CareFirst in the Mid-Atlantic and The Regence Group in the Pacific Northwest. The largest non-investor owned member is Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), which operates four Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans in the Midwest and Southwest.”

    Just because SOME BCBS-affiliated companies are non-profit, doesn’t make BCBS a non-profit organization.

  15. Angryrider says:

    Somehow seeing the results remind me of the first round, Menu Foods vs. Comcast. More people voted for Comcast because of their stupid service, rather than Menu’s ability to kill living things and lie about it.
    Come on, the US Healthcare system is effed up and none of these companies are fixing that huge problem.

  16. ByeBye says:

    Color me chartreuse for Sprint losing.
    @Squeezer99: You like both? Have you read any of the articles that have been on this website and COUNTLESS others?

    I personally can’t stand either, but I had to vote for Sprint. Now, if this was against United Heath Care (which is my insurance) then you bet your sweet ass (and I don’t mean you do, as I am a man, but if you’re a chick then sure) I would vote

  17. nedzeppelin says:

    @Angryrider: why would an insurance provider be responsible for the state of the healthcare system?

    if you have to point a finger somewhere to explain why healthcare is in such disarray, i’d point it squarely at the smoking, drinking, fast food eating citizens that comprise the fattest nation on earth.

    modern medicine hasn’t reached the point where we can swallow a pill made in a lab somewhere and undo all the unhealthy lifestyles people lead. although i bet if such a pill were created, people would just whine about how they have to pay for it and can’t just send the bill to the rich taxpayer down the street

  18. sleze69 says:

    I am surprised that Sprint is doing so poorly.

  19. Nighthawke says:

    BCBS jacked my rates no fewer than twice in one year, about forcing me to cancel the service. They deserve to win this round.

    Sprint needs to get their act together or they might as well hang it up and call it a career.

  20. Truthie says:

    @mwwilk: I am again disappointed in Consumerist for making the same mistake twice after being made aware the first time.

    But considering that “what readers said in previous rounds about why they hate these two companies” is actually about
    1) Aetna, which is clearly not related to BCBS, and
    2) “Big Pharma”, also completely unrelated to BCBS (and not always with the same position as insurance companies),
    it is clear that this whole “contest” has noting to do with accuracy or actually identifying the worst companies in America but more to do with generating pageviews.

    Consumerist — please stick to fighting for people wronged by companies and leave the sensationalizing to others.

  21. Bladefist says:

    @Mr_Human: Thanks for the correction.

    @Steaming Pile: You obviously have no idea what FUD means. And I was partially right. Mr_Human corrected me. Therefore your comment was not needed.

  22. highmodulus says:

    Sprint is just a bad cell phone company, they can’t deny your health care for specious reasons. Plus Sprint seems to be trying harder, and Verizon, AT&T and T-mobile all seem to be just as bad if you read the Consumerist.

    Another walk in the park vote.

  23. blackmage439 says:

    While I agree with many commentors that the whole “these companies are in no way related; which one is worse?” contests are silly and pointless, I’ll go ahead and cast my vote.

    Both companies actively earn huge profits for shoddy performance, but BC/BS is evil for playing games with people’s lives.

  24. Empire says:

    I have to go with the company whose business model depends on trying to deny service to someone long enough for them to die. As far as I know, Sprint doesn’t make its money committing second-degree murder.

  25. Pro-Pain says:

    Wow did Sprint luck out here! LOL

  26. technotica says:

    Strange situation I’m in here, since I have Sprint (been a customer for about 10 years) and have BCBS as a health provider. I haven’t had much issue with either one, but to be fair I haven’t really had need for my health insurance.

    BCBS for the win here, because of their potential and evidence of prior evilness.

  27. All I can say is BCBS of MD has been great to my kids. My 8-year-old son needed two surgeries by age 6, and has an incurable vision condition. We paid the co-pays only for both surgeries. Yeah, we’ve had some billing issues. Yeah, we’ve got to get a referral for everything. But my son is getting great care at one of the best hospitals in the world because of BCBS. I just wish everyone could have the experience we’ve had.

  28. sandheep says:

    BCBS/Anthem’s new website is completely buggy–it’s a security problem waiting to happen. I submitted a claim status request a few weeks ago. They some how managed to reply to me regarding SOMEONE ELSE’s claim. HIPPA?

  29. dragonfire81 says:

    As a former Sprint Rep who would like nothing more than to burn their HQ to the ground, I had to vote for them.

  30. fp07 says:

    I honestly hate BCBS with every fiber of my being.

    Seriously, even though we pay over $100 a month for coverage, they refuse to pay for my mental health shit. The only way I can get it covered is if I go insane and need to go into inpatient care. Of course, that has to be approved by their office before I can check in.

  31. mujerpoder says:

    These are getting more difficult to vote on! As former customers of both, I have to go with BCBS. BCBS did NOT cover ANY off site lab work. So me, the poor non-profit worker in DC paid up to $300 out of pocket for an annual exam because the doctor’s office contracted its lab work. Of course it had to go on the credit card because I couldn’t afford it.

  32. OnceWasCool says:

    BCBS is worthless and here is my story.

    I have OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) and require a CPAP machine to force air in my lungs at night. I also have mild insomnia meaning I fall asleep but wake up during the night. My nights were more like short naps with most of it being awake. I had to go through two sleep studies which recorded my sleep patterns. After going through a long list of medicines, Lunesta worked without side effects.

    BCBS refuses to pay anything on Lunesta and I have to pay 50 bucks a month just to sleep at night.

    Does anyone know of an insurance company that does pay for Lunesta?

  33. elforesto says:

    As a customer of both companies in the Salt Lake City area, I can’t say I’ve personally had much in the way of problems from either of them. BCBS has done a good job of taking care of our health costs and Sprint was even awesome enough to give me a $75 “customer loyalty credit” on my most recent bill for getting a new phone and renewing my contract. (Yes, I waited for it to post before I counted that chicken hatched.) That said, I know that BCBS is terrible in a lot of other markets and they thus earned my vote.

  34. stopNgoBeau says:

    @Trai_Dep: That comment doesnt relate as Exxon either owns or hires each of those tankers for work, whereas BCBS is an association where memeber companies sign up to have brand name coverage and cross network payment.

    I still sit wiht my stance that comparing BCBS as a bad company when some of their member companies are crap is like saying Oldsmobile is crap because a lot of their elder drivers with bad eyesight get into traffic accidents. Consumerist should rightfully pin the specific agency that has had problems against other companies, not the entire BCBS network.

  35. cognizance8 says:

    Let me tell you what the new plan for insurance companies to recoup cost is:

    Having had a physical in June and then changing jobs, and thus insurance, the following November I chose to go with BCBS. I found that there were some horrible reviews of things that happened in Maryland and some other states concerning things like emergency abortions and miscarriages being written off by BCBS as being voluntary (for which they wouldn’t pay these distraught parents-to-be), I still chose to go with BCBS because I had them in the past and nothing was written from my state.

    I developed a hernia in December and I was lucky enough to see a specialist and have it taken care of in under a week. I had a very good surgeon and a very good anesthesiologist. They both did a proper job. BCBS then opens up this investigation to see if the hernia was an existing problem. After they couldn’t (thanks to the physical I had six months previous) they then sent me a letter saying something to the effect of after reviewing my medical records, they found some discrepencies that make it seem like my doctors messed up the surgery. They stated that if the doctors had not done their job properly, they would pursue repayment for all services rendered. They kept badgering me with these letters until I finally filled out a survey and review on my surgeon. They then left me alone for a little while until they started trying it again with the anesthesiologist.
    I filled out the review and they have left me alone about the issue.

    Another problem was how I had set up automatic payment. I received a letter about 4 months after I started their insurance with them saying that they had not received payment. I quickly sent in a check to take care of it only to check my cc statement a couple of weeks later and see the automatic deduction. I am now waiting to see the next statement to make sure everything is on the up-and-up.

    Basically, a for-profit insurance company just doesn’t make sense. Their bottom line is driven by profit and not care of the individual. Everyone thinks that health care is broken, it isn’t broken the insurance companies are broken.

    I really got the feeling that, had I filled out those reviews of my doctors in a way that made it look like they didn’t do a good job, BCBS would have denied payment to them.

  36. HeartBurnKid says:

    I’m giving this one to BCBS just for making my mom wait 9 months to start physical therapy.

  37. jswilson64 says:

    @mwwilk:
    Seconded!
    BCBS of Texas is a not-for-profit, and is pretty good as far as big insurance goes. YMMV, which is why BCBS is NOT a “company” – it’s a BRAND!

  38. therealzorro says:

    I’d rather be azzraped by Sprint that left for dead on gurney because Blue Shield decided not to tell me they denied the surgery at the last minute because some higher-up schmuck needed a new porsche in his driveway.

    Blue Shield of California authorized my surgery pre-op and post op 1 month decided not to pay it because they felt it wasn’t needed. Who the hell would go through spine surgery because they want to and not because they need to? I’m’ sure there are some twisted drag queens that think catheters are party favor, but I went through hell and it was not party.

    Watch the movie Sicko and even though it’s sensationalist, it’s all true.

  39. yungjerry703 says:

    sprint told me today i had to travel to their reston, va location or Kansas location to upgrade my phone.

  40. planet2334 says:

    I cover phones at our hospital sometimes, and usually when I get a call that has a patient stating that their co-pay is not that high, or that their plan is supposed to cover an expense, they are almost always BCBS customers. I recommend that they call them and ask politely for a supervisor, and ask them to reprocess the claim, but it is demoralizing. I can’t change their bills, we have to bill them how we are told to.
    I had worked for them for a short time until I was in a car accident when I was still in training. They said to the training class that many of their insurance claims are processed by people who work from home, the work is sub-contracted out, in a very private way. So many of the processors choose the wrong doctor or facility file, instead of choosing the participating doctor file, they choose the non-par one. That denies the claim as non-covered and they can reprocess it, but it’s a pain.

    They also have many different plans and doctors are not always participating in all of the plans (PPO’s, HMO, Blue Plan, this or that). So patients call a doctor’s office and ask “Do you take BCBS?” and the receptionist blows her bubble gum and twirls her hair and says “Sure!” and the next thing the patient knows, they’re getting a bill from the doctor.

    ALWAYS ask the insurance company if the doctor is par in your specific plan, NOT the doctor’s office.