Medicare Advantage plans from AARP/UnitedHealthcare are a good deal. There are many $0 plans available, and the average cost of $21 per month is lower than other companies like Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
AARP/UnitedHealthcare plans have a good overall rating of 4.2 stars. But the downside is its user rating of 3.6 stars, indicating issues with customer service and ease of use.
Our Thoughts: Why We Recommend AARP/UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage
Medicare Advantage plans from AARP/UnitedHealthcare are widely available, affordable and have good overall ratings. This is a winning combination for many people because UnitedHealthcare is also the most popular provider, issuing more than a quarter of all Medicare Advantage policies.
UnitedHealthcare is a good choice for people who want coverage from a reputable national insurance company; a wide variety of plans to choose from; and lots of included perks like dental care, vision, fitness and more.
For those who want out-of-network coverage, AARP/UnitedHealthcare is an especially great choice because the cost of a local PPO plan averages $15 per month, which is 65% cheaper than the industry average.
If access to a wide range of doctors and hospitals is important to you, UnitedHealthcare has a reasonably large network of providers, but it's not as large as Blue Cross Blue Shield.
The downside of UnitedHealthcare's plans is its lackluster customer experience. Surveyed policyholders rate the plan as only 3.6 to 3.7 stars. That average performance is not as strong as some of the top-ranking companies, like Kaiser Permanente.
How Do AARP/UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Plans Work?
Medicare Advantage, also called Medicare Part C, is a bundled insurance plan that's administered by a private insurance company, in this case UnitedHealthcare.
Plans cover medical care, hospitalization services and usually prescription drugs.
You can sign up for Medicare Advantage when you first become eligible for Medicare, and then you can update your plan annually during Medicare open enrollment in the fall.
When comparing Medicare Advantage plans, we recommend you choose a plan based on the medical care you expect to need. If you're in good health, a low-cost plan could be the most cost effective, even if you have to pay a little more for your medical care. However, if you have chronic health issues, it may be cost effective to sign up for a more expensive plan with better benefits. For example, paying $25 more per month is worth it if the more expensive plan will save you more than $300 per year in medical care.
UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Brands
Medicare Advantage plans from UnitedHealthcare are sold under four brands: AARP, Erickson Advantage, Rocky Mountain Health Plans and UnitedHealthcare.
AARP Medicare Advantage plans are the most commonly offered option — they're even more common than UnitedHealthcare-branded plans.
With an AARP Medicare Advantage plan, you do not need to be an AARP member in order to enroll in the insurance coverage. That's different from an AARP Medicare Supplement plan, where you do have to be an AARP member in order to enroll.
The AARP-UnitedHealthcare partnership is a result of a marketing agreement between the two companies. AARP endorses and promotes some UnitedHealthcare Medicare plans by putting the organization's name on it, and in exchange AARP gets a royalty fee for each plan sold. The relationship between AARP and UnitedHealthcare is exclusive, and AARP does not endorse Medicare plans from other insurance companies.
Our review considers all of UnitedHealthcare's Medicare Advantage plans, regardless of the advertised brand. For example, even when the plan name says AARP, the insurance is through UnitedHealthcare.
Availability and popularity
Including all of the brands offered, UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans are widely available throughout the country, including 48 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly as widespread are its cheap plans that cost $0 per month.
UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage availability:
- All plans: 48 states and the District of Columbia (Only Alaska and Louisiana do not have plans available.)
- $0 plans: 47 states and the District of Columbia (The cheapest plan in Wyoming costs $35 per month.)
Keep in mind that Medicare Advantage plans are issued at the county level. That means plan options may change from county to county. For example, in California, UnitedHealthcare plans are only offered in about two-thirds of the state.
UnitedHealthcare is the most popular Medicare Advantage provider, issuing 27% of all policies.
For many shoppers, UnitedHealthcare plans are in the sweet spot for balancing good benefits at reasonable prices. This contributes to the company's overall popularity. As an example, UnitedHealthcare's Medicare Advantage plans offered in New York are considered middle-of-the-road plans because the company has better ratings than the cheapest provider, Humana. Plus, UHC has a provider network that's larger than New York's top-ranking insurance company, CDPHP.
In addition, some enrollees say that the familiarity of the AARP and UnitedHealthcare brands and their national reputation influences their decision to choose these plans.
Cost of AARP/UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage
An AARP/UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan is a good deal, costing an average of $21 per month.
Looking only at the Medicare Advantage plans that include prescription drug coverage, this $21 per month average cost for UnitedHealthcare is cheaper than the $33 per month overall average across all companies.
Medicare Advantage plans from UnitedHealthcare are also a good value. With the many included add-ons, enrollees get more for their money. And there's not a trade-off in coverage because the company's average out-of-pocket maximum matches the industry as a whole.
Despite this, many other reviewers still say that UnitedHealthcare's Medicare Advantage plans are expensive. This is because UnitedHealthcare has a reputation for being an expensive insurance company because of its individual health insurance plans, which can cost twice as much as what other companies charge.
However, when we look at the actual cost of its Medicare Advantage plans, we see that the pricing in this category is much different, and UnitedHealthcare has affordable Medicare Advantage plans.
Medicare Advantage Cost by Plan Type
AARP/UnitedHealthcare offers cheap PPO plans, averaging $15 per month for a local PPO plan. That's about a third of the typical cost of $43.
AARP/UnitedHealthcare's PPO plans are a very good deal, with average prices that are far below the industry. Not only are the PPO plans affordable, but they're also desirable because they provide more flexibility about which doctors you use because they cover both in-network and out-of-network health care.
All Medicare Advantage
How much cheaper is AARP/UHC?
Most common plans
Shoppers have an average of three UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans to choose from, since availability depends on where you live. But in total, UnitedHealthcare offers 92 Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug coverage. This provides a broad range of coverage options.
The 10 most broadly offered plans range from $7 per month to $49 per month, on average.
Average monthly cost
# of counties offered
|AARP Medicare Advantage Plan 2 (HMO-POS)||$7||442|
|AARP Medicare Advantage Choice (PPO)||$8||934|
|AARP Medicare Advantage (HMO-POS)||$12||376|
|AARP Medicare Advantage Plan 1 (HMO)||$12||352|
|AARP Medicare Advantage Choice Plan 2 (PPO)||$13||546|
|AARP Medicare Advantage Choice Plan 1 (PPO)||$14||491|
|AARP Medicare Advantage Plan 1 (HMO-POS)||$16||409|
|AARP Medicare Advantage Plan 2 (HMO)||$26||379|
|UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Choice Plan 3 (Regional PPO)||$26||252|
|UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Choice (Regional PPO)||$49||459|
Find Cheap Medicare Plans in Your Area
Medical Benefits With UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage
With UnitedHealthcare, the copayments for medical care are generally low, but many medical services require prior authorization from the insurance company.
For example, if you need a lab test or a specialist appointment, your doctor needs to get approval from UnitedHealthcare before you'll be covered for that service. Even though you, as the patient, are not responsible for getting this prior approval, this process can affect how quickly you can get care and add extra paperwork if the request is denied.
The health services that require prior authorizations vary by plan, but we found that across the plans we reviewed, UnitedHealthcare generally required prior authorization for the following non-emergency services:
- Specialist visits
- Diagnostic tests
- Lab services
- X-rays and MRIs
- Hospital care
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Physical therapy
- Hearing exams
- Non-routine dental
- Eye exam
Coverage for prescriptions
Most AARP/UnitedHealthcare plans provide good, comprehensive prescription drug benefits, especially for generic drugs.
On average, the prescription drug deductible is $139, but many plans have no drug deductible or have generic drugs excluded from the deductible.
For generic drugs, copayments cost between $4 and $18, on average. In some areas, plans go as far as to offer free generic prescriptions.
For those who have expensive prescription drug needs that total thousands of dollars, about 97% of UnitedHealthcare's plans provide prescription benefits during the coverage gap, also called the donut hole. This can minimize costs for those who need this benefit because of high-cost medications. For others, the coverage can provide peace of mind.
Sample plan benefits
The benefits for each plan vary across the country. By looking at a sample of plans offered in Columbia, Mo., you can get insight into the level of benefits that plans may offer.
Unlike most other insurers, the benefits of AARP/UnitedHealthcare plans don't consistently get better as you pay more. Instead, each plan's benefits need to be considered individually to see if it matches your needs.
Among this sample, the UnitedHealthcare-branded plans generally cost more per month and have higher deductibles. This means someone in good health who only needs routine care would not get a good deal. Instead, healthy enrollees can get more cost-effective coverage by choosing one of the cheaper AARP plans that have low to no costs each month and coverage that begins right away without first meeting a deductible.
Out-of-pocket max (in-network)
Out-of-pocket max (in & out of network)
|AARP Medicare Advantage Plan 2 (HMO)||$0||$0||$0||$5,900||N/A|
|AARP Medicare Advantage Choice (PPO)||$0||$0||$0||$3,900||$10,000|
|UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Choice Plan 3 (Regional PPO)||$19||$1,000||$245||$6,700||$6,700|
|AARP Medicare Advantage Plan 1 (HMO-POS)||$23||$0||$0||$3,400||N/A|
|UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Choice Plan 2 (Regional PPO)||$54||$295||$295||$6,700||$6,700|
When we specifically compare the three PPO options, we see that the AARP Medicare Advantage Choice PPO plan is better for in-network benefits and for those who need more extensive dental care. However, the $10,000 out-of-pocket max for out-of-network care is not a good deal for those who want to frequently go to doctors who are out-of-network.
Someone who wants to extensively use their out-of-network coverage would get a better deal with the UnitedHealthcare PPO plans. For example, the UHC Choice Plan 3 would cost $228 per year for the coverage, but all medical costs, including out-of-network care, would be limited to $6,700. That's a $3,072 annual savings from the AARP PPO plan, which caps costs at $10,000. Especially for those who are facing difficult health conditions, better out-of-network coverage can allow you to seek out the best doctors you can find.
Additional benefits and health care services
There is a large collection of benefits included in Medicare Advantage plans from AARP/UnitedHealthcare. Because Erickson and Rocky Mountain Health Plans offer a different collection of benefits, this section only focuses on what's included with the AARP and UnitedHealthcare branded plans. These Medicare Advantage plans include:
- Telehealth: Plans include free virtual visits for non-emergency care for both medical and mental health needs.
- Health care at home: Offered in many areas, UnitedHealthcare's HouseCalls program provides a free physical exam and health screening at home.
- Dental care: Plans usually include basic dental benefits such as routine cleanings and X-rays. Some plans include more comprehensive coverage for fillings, root canals, crowns, dentures and implants. Check the plans offered in your area to see what's covered. AARP/UnitedHealthcare is one of the best Medicare Advantage plans for dental coverage because of its large network of dentists.
- Vision care: Many plans have vision benefits that include a free routine eye exam every year or two if you go to an in-network provider. Lenses are usually covered in full, and there's an allowance of about $100 toward frames or contacts. Plus, some plans have an option for home eyewear delivery.
- Hearing: Plans frequently cover a free hearing exam. There is usually some coverage for hearing aids. Your copay could be $375 to $2,075 for each hearing aid, with a limit of two hearing aids per year. AARP/UnitedHealthcare's hearing aid coverage is not as good as Humana's, but it's better than Original Medicare through the government, where you could have no coverage.
- Fitness: Plans include benefits through a program called Renew Active, which may include a gym membership, online fitness videos and access to the Fitbit Community to connect with other enrollees.
- Healthy living rewards: Some plans have a program called Renew Rewards where you can get cash back for activities like an annual checkup or tracking your steps.
- Mental sharpness: Included is the AARP Staying Sharp program, which provides activities and brain exercises to help you maintain strong cognitive function.
- Allowance towards groceries: Dual-enrollment plans for those who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid have an OTC+Healthy Food benefit that provides gift cards for enrollees to use for items like vitamins, cough drops, vegetables, meat and more.
Customer reviews and complaints
Overall ratings of AARP/UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans are good, and the company has an average of 4.2 out of five stars.
That's slightly ahead of other national providers including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana and Aetna, which average between 4.1 and 3.9 stars.
UnitedHealthcare also has a low rate of official customer complaints. In this category, it had a near-perfect score of 4.9 stars. However, member experience is middle of the road. Current policyholders gave their Medicare Advantage plans an average of 3.6 to 3.7 stars for the plan's overall performance. While this is not a red flag, these lackluster customer reviews are not as strong as a top-rated company like Kaiser Permanente or other regional brands like Baylor Scott & White in Texas.
Customer reviews of UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage:
- Rating of health plan: 3.6 stars
- Getting appointments and care quickly: 3.6 stars
- Getting needed care: 3.6 stars
- Rating of health care quality: 3.7 stars
- Customer service: 3.7 stars
These moderate ratings line up with what other researchers have found. In J.D. Power's survey on Medicare Advantage customer satisfaction, UnitedHealthcare ranks in the bottom third of providers.
Plus, while both AARP and UnitedHealthcare have A+ ratings on the Better Business Bureau (BBB), customers commonly complain about poor customer service, aggressive marketing and excessive junk mail.
Frequently asked questions
Is a Medicare Advantage plan from UnitedHealthcare good?
Yes, AARP/UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans provide good coverage and have an average overall rating of 4.2 stars. The company stands out for cheap PPO plans that cost $15 per month on average. The downside is overall customer satisfaction trails behind other companies such as Humana and Anthem.
Does UnitedHealthcare offer Medicare?
Yes, UnitedHealthcare is the most popular provider of Medicare Advantage plans (also called Part C) which bundles coverage together as a single plan. It also offers Medicare Part D plans for standalone prescription drug coverage and Medicare Supplement plans to reduce medical costs for those who are enrolled in the government-administered Medicare plan.
What type of insurance is AARP/UnitedHealthcare?
AARP/UnitedHealthcare are Medicare plans where AARP endorses insurance provided by UnitedHealthcare.
Why does AARP recommend UnitedHealthcare?
AARP endorses UnitedHealthcare as part of a marketing agreement between the two companies. For each plan sold, AARP receives a royalty payment from UnitedHealthcare. However, AARP/UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans generally provide good coverage at affordable prices.
Sources and methodology
Medicare plan costs and star ratings are sourced from the public use files from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Average costs are based on nationwide data for Medicare Advantage plans that include prescription drug coverage and are sold under any of UnitedHealthcare's brand names. Calculations exclude employer-sponsored plans and special needs plans. Additional ratings data was sourced from J.D. Power and the Better Business Bureau.