Best Health Insurance Companies

Blue Shield of California health insurance review and ratings 2023

Blue California ranks high for affordability and customer service. It’s No. 7 on Insure.com’s 2023 Best Health Insurance Companies list – earning 3.3 stars out of 5.

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Our take

Blue Shield of California gets high marks as a good all-around health insurance provider. It’s a frontrunner for people who are looking for an insurer that delivers high customer satisfaction combined with good value for the money. 

Blue Shield of California is seventh on Insure.com’s list of the Best Health Insurance Companies for 2023.

The company received an impressive 4 out of 5 stars from the National Committee for Quality Assurance. NCQA evaluates healthcare plans on, among other things, member satisfaction. 

Of course, Blue California is largely limited to residents of the Golden State.

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Blue Shield of California Ratings
Overall Rating: 3.3
Price/Affordability: 4.4
NCQA: 4.00
Customer Satisfaction: 4.6
AM Best Rating: A

Pros and Cons

Pros:
  • Blue California ranked among the top insurers for affordability
  • It was among the top health insurance providers based on customer satisfaction
  • Customers also ranked it best in our survey for policy offerings
Cons:
  • While customers seemed to be quite happy with the services they received, it scored among the lowest in our survey for renewals
  • It’s mostly limited to California residents

Below is Insure.com’s review of the company. It’s based on third-party metrics and our in-depth survey of insurance customers. Find the full methodology here, including an explanation of our survey scores.

How much does Blue Shield of California insurance cost? 

Blue California is rated well for affordability among the health insurers we ranked. The company also received one of the highest marks for low deductibles.

Insurance company Rank for price/affordability among Insure.com’s top 10
Blue Shield of California 4
Aetna 1
UnitedHealthcare 2 (tie)
Cigna 2 (tie)

Below is a look at how Blue California rates in the Golden State compare with those of Anthem and Kaiser Permanente for a similar plan. These are 2023 healthcare exchange rates for a single, 40-year-old male in excellent health with an annual income of $70,000.

Insurance company Rate/Month Plan
Blue Shield of California $379 Silver 70 Trio HMO
Kaiser Permanente $379 Silver 70 HMO
Anthem $353 Silver 70 HMO

How Blue Shield of California scores for customer satisfaction

Our survey found that 91% of Blue California customers give it high marks for customer satisfaction, one of the highest ratings in our survey. It wasn’t far behind the top company, Kaiser Permanente, which had high satisfaction marks from 93% of customers. It was in the middle of the pack, however, when looking at average J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study scores, which measure health plans for overall customer satisfaction.

Insurance company Percent of customers who are satisfied with the company overall J.D. Power overall satisfaction score (out of 1,000)
Blue Shield of California 91% 738
Kaiser Permanente 93% 766
BCBS of Michigan 89% 748

How Blue Shield of California scores for complaints filed against the company

Blue California could do a better job of settling complaints before they get escalated. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) compares major providers on how many complaints are filed with state regulators. If a provider has a rate that is equal to its customer base, it receives a 1.0 score. If it has twice as many complaints as its share of business, it gets a 2.0. Blue California had a score of 3.78.

Insurance company NAIC Complaint Index
Blue Shield of California 3.78

How Blue Shield of California scores for policy offerings 

Customers gave Blue California top marks for policy offerings. It and Kaiser Permanente had the highest scores in this category. Blue California offers a wide range of policies for individuals and families, as well as employers. It also offers programs covering vision and dental care and offers life insurance.

Insurance company Percent of customers who score their insurance company highly for policy offerings
Blue Shield of California 91%
Kaiser Permanente 91%
UnitedHealthcare 84%

Would current customers recommend Blue Shield of California to others? 

Most Blue California customers would recommend the insurer to others. At 87%, that was about the middle of the pack in our survey. Kaiser Permanente finished on top, with 96% of its customers saying they would.

Insurance company Percent of customers who would recommend their health insurance company to others
Blue Shield of California 87%
Kaiser Permanente 96%
Aetna 85%

How trustworthy is Blue Shield of California?

The majority of customers say Blue California has earned their trust. The company received a score of 70%. But a number of insurers did better. Kaiser Permanente led the survey at 87%.

Insurance company Percent of customers who say they trust their health insurance company
Blue Shield of California 70%
Kaiser Permanente 87%
Aetna 75%

Do current Blue Shield of California customers plan to renew?

Most do, but not all. When customers were asked if they planned to renew with Blue California, 83% said they would. While high, that was among the lower rankings in our survey. It was a bit surprising as providers with a strong customer satisfaction ranking generally earned higher loyalty marks.

Insurance company Percent of customers who plan to renew with their health insurance company
Blue Shield of California 83%
Anthem 95%
Kaiser Permanente 93%

How Blue Shield of California scores for low deductibles

The company led this category among the companies we ranked. Florida Blue and Humana also did well in this category.

Insurance company Survey score for low deductibles
Blue California 100%
Florida Blue 83%
Humana 77%

Blue Shield of California health insurance coverage options

  • Health insurance for individuals and families
  • Health insurance via employers
  • Medicare and Medi-Cal plans 

Other Blue Shield of California services 

  • Dental 
  • Vision
  • Life insurance

States where Blue Shield of California offers coverage

Graph
Table
States where Blue Shield of California offers coverage
California
AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DC DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY
Available
Not available

Company background

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Blue Shield started in 1938 when the California Medical Association House of Delegates created the California Physicians’ Service (CPS). By 1940, more than 20,000 Californians had subscribed, and some 5,000 physicians joined the healthcare service plan

Blue California, as it’s also known, became one of the founders of the National Association of Blue Shield plans in 1946, which was later renamed the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Today, Blue California has about 4.7 million members and a provider network that includes some 36,000 physicians and about 240 preferred hospitals.

It has a strong reputation for investing back into the community through its Blue Shield of California Foundation.

Resources & Methodology

Sources:

Blue Shield of California website. Accessed November 2022.

Methodology

Insure.com in the fall of 2022 surveyed more than 1,500 insurance consumers (775 people with health insurance). The survey was conducted by online market research company Slice MR. 

Respondents were asked to name their insurer and then grade it in the following categories – customer satisfaction, ease of service and policy offerings. The percentage of respondents who said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their insurer is presented in the results.

Survey score calculation: Respondents were then asked to rank their insurer’s top three attributes out of more than a dozen presented – such as its provider network. For a number one choice, five points were given; for a second choice, three points; and for a third choice, a single point. The total points for each choice – first, second and third – were then divided by the number of each company’s customers who responded to that survey question to create a percentage. Those percentages are presented in the results as scores. 

Respondents were then asked if they would recommend their insurer to someone else and if they planned to renew their policies. The percentage who said yes is presented in the results.

They also were given the statement “I trust my insurance company” and asked if they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement. The percentage of those who said they agreed or strongly agreed is presented in the results.

The editors compiled the survey results and then selected – based on the number of survey responses – the top companies for further evaluation. Insure.com needed 20 or more of a company’s customers to respond to the survey for that insurer to be included in the ranking, although in some categories the editors did consider companies with 18 or 19 responses.

They then collected AM Best financial stability ratings and National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) ratings, which evaluate health plans on, among other things, member satisfaction.

With the help of Prof. David Marlett, Ph.D., managing director of the Brantley Risk and Insurance Center at Appalachian State University, the editors created a rating system to determine which insurance companies were best in each sector. For health insurers, we used the following weights to calculate the overall score for each company: 

  • Survey – 60% of total score (10% for customer satisfaction, 10% trustworthiness, 10% for recommending the carrier to another, 10% if a respondent would renew with their current insurer, and 20% if they consider their insurer the best for affordability)
  • AM Best – 25% of total score
  • NCQA – 15% of total score

Each insurer was awarded from 1 to 5 stars. No insurer in our star ranking received less than 1 star and the highest possible ranking is 5 stars.

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