Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

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alter
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Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by alter » Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:58 am

It's enrollment time and I have the option of 2 different high deductible plans, they both have basically exactly the same specifications, deductibles, etc, and same price...just that one is through Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the other is United Health Care...I'm just wondering if there is anyone here with positive or negative experiences with either one and which is preferable. Thanks!

RickBoglehead
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by RickBoglehead » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:00 am

Your question is too global. Each company has specific plans with specific employers in specific markets. Compare benefits, everything - co pays, deductibles, limits, frequencies, out of network co pays, deductibles, limits, frequencies, etc. If they are truly identical, and the cost isn't, then pick the one with the widest coverage, i.e. out of state coverage, etc.

alter
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by alter » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:02 am

Yep they are truly identical in specifications, and cost is same. I am mostly just trying to get opinions of people with experience with them. Coverage appears to be good for both in my area.

rantk81
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by rantk81 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:04 am

BCBS and United each have many many different "networks of doctors".

Even though a doctor says they accept BCBS and/or United, does NOT mean that they are in-network with EVERY plan that BCBS and/or United offer.

Some networks are pretty open, allowing you to see a huge number of doctors. Other networks are very narrow, only allowing you to see a handful of different doctors. For example, most of the plans on the ACA Exchange website have tiny networks of doctors, which typically (in my searching experience) do not include any of the top-tier hospitals/doctors in a particular area.

You really need to find out what the NETWORK NAME is for each of the plans you are considering, and find out which doctors participate in those particular NETWORKS. Just distinguishing between BCBS and United is not enough. Not even close.

Good Luck.

Rupert
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by Rupert » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:05 am

Answers are going to be very state specific -- in other words, basically useless to you. Blue Cross has a different organization in every state, for example. All else being equal, look at the networks. Which plan includes your preferred doctors and facilities in their network?
Last edited by Rupert on Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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dm200
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by dm200 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:06 am

If you have providers that are part of both networks, ask a provider about convenience, etc. of using one vs the other.

rantk81
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by rantk81 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:06 am

PS: It sounds like it would be really bizarre to me, for an employer to offer a choice between two plans, that both had identical cost-sharing structures, but from different claims processing companies. I think you really have to dig into which docs in in the network. Otherwise, this makes no sense to me...

Dottie57
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by Dottie57 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:10 am

rantk81 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:06 am
PS: It sounds like it would be really bizarre to me, for an employer to offer a choice between two plans, that both had identical cost-sharing structures, but from different claims processing companies. I think you really have to dig into which docs in in the network. Otherwise, this makes no sense to me...
+1

alter
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by alter » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:18 am

rantk81 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:04 am
BCBS and United each have many many different "networks of doctors".

Even though a doctor says they accept BCBS and/or United, does NOT mean that they are in-network with EVERY plan that BCBS and/or United offer.

Some networks are pretty open, allowing you to see a huge number of doctors. Other networks are very narrow, only allowing you to see a handful of different doctors. For example, most of the plans on the ACA Exchange website have tiny networks of doctors, which typically (in my searching experience) do not include any of the top-tier hospitals/doctors in a particular area.

You really need to find out what the NETWORK NAME is for each of the plans you are considering, and find out which doctors participate in those particular NETWORKS. Just distinguishing between BCBS and United is not enough. Not even close.

Good Luck.
I'm trying to find the "network name" anywhere in the docs but honestly do not see anything regarding that in either one. I see "UnitedHealthcare Choice Plus" for the united one, is that it? For Blue Cross it just says "BCBS High Deductible" They are both HDHP with PPO

Edit, I found something in the docs for BCBS, it says "BlueEdge with HSA"

rantk81
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by rantk81 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:36 am

alter wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:18 am
rantk81 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:04 am
BCBS and United each have many many different "networks of doctors".

Even though a doctor says they accept BCBS and/or United, does NOT mean that they are in-network with EVERY plan that BCBS and/or United offer.

Some networks are pretty open, allowing you to see a huge number of doctors. Other networks are very narrow, only allowing you to see a handful of different doctors. For example, most of the plans on the ACA Exchange website have tiny networks of doctors, which typically (in my searching experience) do not include any of the top-tier hospitals/doctors in a particular area.

You really need to find out what the NETWORK NAME is for each of the plans you are considering, and find out which doctors participate in those particular NETWORKS. Just distinguishing between BCBS and United is not enough. Not even close.

Good Luck.
I'm trying to find the "network name" anywhere in the docs but honestly do not see anything regarding that in either one. I see "UnitedHealthcare Choice Plus" for the united one, is that it? For Blue Cross it just says "BCBS High Deductible" They are both HDHP with PPO

Edit, I found something in the docs for BCBS, it says "BlueEdge with HSA"
Yep. The "UnitedHealthcare Choice Plus" certainly sounds like that network name. You should be able to search on UnitedHealth's website for what doctors are included in that network. Same with "BlueEdge with HSA". Make sure the names of the network are EXACTLY THE SAME when you do your searches. In my experience, there are often dozens, if not hundreds, of different network names, all named somewhat similar, with various extra words added to the beginning/middle/end.

Edit: When I compare different doctor networks, I just do some searches to see if the closest/best hospitals are included in the network, and some searches to see if any of the (good) doctors I am familiar with are also in the network, along with an adequate number of specialists that may be affiliated with in-network hospitals.
Last edited by rantk81 on Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

backslash2718
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by backslash2718 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:39 am

Dottie57 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:10 am
rantk81 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:06 am
PS: It sounds like it would be really bizarre to me, for an employer to offer a choice between two plans, that both had identical cost-sharing structures, but from different claims processing companies. I think you really have to dig into which docs in in the network. Otherwise, this makes no sense to me...
+1
My employer actually does this. Three difference providers with 3 exact same benefits/costs. I wonder if it's a MegaCorp thing to provide choice of network.

rantk81
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by rantk81 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:40 am

backslash2718 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:39 am
Dottie57 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:10 am
rantk81 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:06 am
PS: It sounds like it would be really bizarre to me, for an employer to offer a choice between two plans, that both had identical cost-sharing structures, but from different claims processing companies. I think you really have to dig into which docs in in the network. Otherwise, this makes no sense to me...
+1
My employer actually does this. Three difference providers with 3 exact same benefits/costs. I wonder if it's a MegaCorp thing to provide choice of network.
Weird. Maybe a quirk of corporate mergers with existing longer term contracts?

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Kenkat
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by Kenkat » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:41 am

I’ve had “United Healthcare Choice Plus HSA” HDHP through my employer for several years and it seems almost every doctor is in network in my area at least. I can’t remember if I have ever had a situation where the selected medical facility or professional was not in network.

backslash2718
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by backslash2718 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:46 am

rantk81 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:40 am
backslash2718 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:39 am
Dottie57 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:10 am
rantk81 wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:06 am
PS: It sounds like it would be really bizarre to me, for an employer to offer a choice between two plans, that both had identical cost-sharing structures, but from different claims processing companies. I think you really have to dig into which docs in in the network. Otherwise, this makes no sense to me...
+1
My employer actually does this. Three difference providers with 3 exact same benefits/costs. I wonder if it's a MegaCorp thing to provide choice of network.
Weird. Maybe a quirk of corporate mergers with existing longer term contracts?
Seems plausible. I always figured it was a liability thing (similar to how 401k's need variety in funds) when you have employees in so many states to provide reasonable choice of network.

alter
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by alter » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:54 am

I think both plans cover most of the doctors and hospitals in my area, so any feedback on the level of service or issues with billing, etc on either is also welcome.

Rupert
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by Rupert » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:56 am

If you're a youngish person with no health problems (and thus little prior contact with the healthcare industry), the easiest way to figure out which is the best plan is often to ask your older co-workers.

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Kenkat
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by Kenkat » Mon Oct 22, 2018 12:10 pm

I have not had any billing or service issues with United Healthcare; they have paid claims quickly and medical providers have always seemed to accept the amount paid by the plan. The UHC website is also easy to use. That said, I am sure either plan is probably going to be ok under most circumstances.

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Artful Dodger
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by Artful Dodger » Mon Oct 22, 2018 2:39 pm

As noted in other replies, this tends to be location specific. BCBS is different than other national carriers, as they started as local prepaid health plans. Many have merged, but you still have a lot of different corporate entities around the country. But, since you're in Chicago, I'm familiar with the Illinois plan.

You are likely in the BCBSI PPO (Participating Provider Option) network, which is their broad network including most of the local hospitals and doctors. If they gave you a link to search for providers, it is listed as the PPO network. If the network is their Blue Choice Preferred or Blue Care Direct, those are other networks they offer with a more limited panel of providers

UHC's Choice Plus network is their broad network. It should be similar to the BCBS PPO network. Your employer should have given you a link to do a search also. So, they should be close as far as provider selection.

I would double check the benefit summaries. UHC tends to have more plans using higher out of pocket limits - $6250 / $6350 are common. BCBSI tends to have lower out of pocket limits. But, if you have a larger employer, the plans may be custom designs, so it's possible they could have the same limits. But, double check.

adam1712
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by adam1712 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 2:54 pm

I have a similar choice between BCBS and Aetna with the exact same costs. One difference for me is the HSA is administered by HSABank for BCBS and Payflex for Aetna. I get the fees waived with HSABank so went with BCBS/HSABank. I also asked around and it seemed like more employees were with BCBS. So check your HSA options and fees and I also think asking other employees is a good way to go.

alter
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by alter » Mon Oct 22, 2018 3:14 pm

Artful Dodger wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 2:39 pm
As noted in other replies, this tends to be location specific. BCBS is different than other national carriers, as they started as local prepaid health plans. Many have merged, but you still have a lot of different corporate entities around the country. But, since you're in Chicago, I'm familiar with the Illinois plan.

You are likely in the BCBSI PPO (Participating Provider Option) network, which is their broad network including most of the local hospitals and doctors. If they gave you a link to search for providers, it is listed as the PPO network. If the network is their Blue Choice Preferred or Blue Care Direct, those are other networks they offer with a more limited panel of providers

UHC's Choice Plus network is their broad network. It should be similar to the BCBS PPO network. Your employer should have given you a link to do a search also. So, they should be close as far as provider selection.

I would double check the benefit summaries. UHC tends to have more plans using higher out of pocket limits - $6250 / $6350 are common. BCBSI tends to have lower out of pocket limits. But, if you have a larger employer, the plans may be custom designs, so it's possible they could have the same limits. But, double check.
You are right, it is the PPO one. Both have exact same specs, an in-network deductible of $1,500 and out of pocket maximum of $4,000. I'm tentatively planning on going with the BCBS option as it seems like it has a larger market share in my state.

Farmboyslim83
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by Farmboyslim83 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 3:39 pm

One thing that doesn't seem to be discussed much is the "negotiated rate" for services, especially bigger ticket expenses like hospital expenses. There's the billed rate, then the negotiated rate, or what the hospital, in this case, will accept as payment from the insurer. Both costs usually appear on an explanation-of-benefits, your out-of-pocket expense will be driven off of this. And, it can differ, from health insurer to health insurer. You may be able to utilize a "estimated cost for service"-type function for each, i.e., for a knee replacement, and see if the negotiated rates differs from one to the other.

criticalmass
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by criticalmass » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:53 pm

alter wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:58 am
It's enrollment time and I have the option of 2 different high deductible plans, they both have basically exactly the same specifications, deductibles, etc, and same price...just that one is through Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the other is United Health Care...I'm just wondering if there is anyone here with positive or negative experiences with either one and which is preferable. Thanks!
The plan(s) that is (are) accepted by the doctors that serve you. Blue Cross is not an insurance plan provider but a network of providers. Check to see which BCBS affiliated organization offers your plan.

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dm200
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by dm200 » Tue Oct 23, 2018 12:53 pm

If you travel a lot or coverage during travel is important - I might check that aspect out.

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dm200
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by dm200 » Tue Oct 23, 2018 12:56 pm

Blue Cross is not an insurance plan provider but a network of providers.
Yes - In this area, there are two BCBS providers and which one you get depends on which side of a local highway you reside OR where your employer is located.

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Artful Dodger
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by Artful Dodger » Tue Oct 23, 2018 6:18 pm

criticalmass wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:53 pm
alter wrote:
Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:58 am
It's enrollment time and I have the option of 2 different high deductible plans, they both have basically exactly the same specifications, deductibles, etc, and same price...just that one is through Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the other is United Health Care...I'm just wondering if there is anyone here with positive or negative experiences with either one and which is preferable. Thanks!
The plan(s) that is (are) accepted by the doctors that serve you. Blue Cross is not an insurance plan provider but a network of providers. Check to see which BCBS affiliated organization offers your plan.
Since we're talking about the Illinois BCBS plan, they are an insurance company. They provide a variety of plans to their members, and for most of their medical plans, they contract with providers who participate in one or more PPO, and or HMO networks. Technically, they are a subsidiary of Health Care Service Corporation, which is a not for profit mutual legal reserve insurance company. In operation, not so much different than United Healthcare, except United is a for profit insurer.

lkt102
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by lkt102 » Wed Oct 24, 2018 9:56 am

My experience with UnitedHealthcare was negative. I had a medical emergency in Mexico and incurred 13k in medical bills. It took 7+ months for UNH to finally pay my claim. Several rejections for "insufficient" documentation and incorrect information from the first line CSRs lead to the extended delay. I finally had to send an email to the CEO, CFO, board of directors, etc to get my claim reviewed and paid. In my opinion their claim process is designed to frustrate the customer until they give up and go away.

rantk81
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by rantk81 » Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:05 am

lkt102 wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 9:56 am
In my opinion their claim process is designed to frustrate the customer until they give up and go away.
I can't speak of UnitedHealth (since I've never had their insurance), but I think a lot of folks can say the same thing about a lot of insurance companies :P

777
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by 777 » Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:20 am

A big thing to note about United relates to drug copay coupons. For most insurers, those dollars count towards your deductible. With United, that's not the always the case. Other insurers will likely move in that direction, but I specifically chose BCBS over UHC for this reason earlier this year.

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/03/19/ ... count-less

lkt102
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by lkt102 » Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:38 am

rantk81 wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:05 am
lkt102 wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 9:56 am
In my opinion their claim process is designed to frustrate the customer until they give up and go away.
I can't speak of UnitedHealth (since I've never had their insurance), but I think a lot of folks can say the same thing about a lot of insurance companies :P
No argument about that. I am just saying it shouldn't take an email to the C-Suite folks and the state insurance commission to get a claimed processed. It was amazing that 3 days after I sent the email that I was contacted by their corporate office stating my claim had been processed and I would be receiving a check for the full amount. I've since switched to GEHA and haven't had any issues with claims (nor have I had a medical emergency in another country.)

DPT31
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by DPT31 » Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:18 pm

You are right, it is the PPO one. Both have exact same specs, an in-network deductible of $1,500 and out of pocket maximum of $4,000. I'm tentatively planning on going with the BCBS option as it seems like it has a larger market share in my state.
[/quote]

BCBS all the way. The reimburse higher than anybody else and are the most liked by healthcare providers in Chicago(in general). My experience with United, as a healthcare provider who deals with insurance, is poor. Everyone takes BCBS. Not Everyone takes United, and united is a PITA to providers.
One thing to note though is since they reimburse higher, if you are a High deductible, you will pay more per service because their rates are typically negotiated higher. If you are going to blow the out of pocket max every year like I do, then you should take BCBS and not think twice.

alter
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Re: Which HDHP plan is better, Blue Cross or United

Post by alter » Wed Oct 24, 2018 1:06 pm

DPT31 wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:18 pm
You are right, it is the PPO one. Both have exact same specs, an in-network deductible of $1,500 and out of pocket maximum of $4,000. I'm tentatively planning on going with the BCBS option as it seems like it has a larger market share in my state.


BCBS all the way. The reimburse higher than anybody else and are the most liked by healthcare providers in Chicago(in general). My experience with United, as a healthcare provider who deals with insurance, is poor. Everyone takes BCBS. Not Everyone takes United, and united is a PITA to providers.
One thing to note though is since they reimburse higher, if you are a High deductible, you will pay more per service because their rates are typically negotiated higher. If you are going to blow the out of pocket max every year like I do, then you should take BCBS and not think twice.
This is exactly the type of insight I was hoping for, thanks!

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