What's the Best $0 Medicare Advantage Plan?

Review Medicare plan options with licensed insurance agents near you

AARP/UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Aetna have the best $0 Medicare Advantage plans.

These Medicare Advantage plans are also called $0 plans, meaning they have no monthly cost. They typically have a basic set of benefits, making them a good deal for those who are healthy and only need moderate amounts of health care.

Free Medicare Advantage plans are widely available and sold by 99% of companies. They're also extremely popular, and roughly two-thirds of all Medicare Advantage plans don't have a monthly rate.

Best-rated $0 Medicare Advantage plans

Humana Medicare Advantage
  • 4.3 stars
  • Best overall benefits
  • Above-average out-of-pocket maximum

Read our full review

Humana has the highest-rated $0 Medicare Advantage plans among large insurance companies. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) gave it a rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars, which is higher than the scores of rival companies such as UnitedHealthcare (UHC), Cigna, Aetna and Kaiser Permanente.

Keep in mind that this is an average across all of its plans. It's important to shop around because plan quality can vary depending on where you live. For example, in some areas, UnitedHealthcare may have better plan options than Humana.

Humana customers have a $5,924 average out-of-pocket maximum (OOPM). That's roughly $300 more than the national average.

For many people, the extra cost is worthwhile because it gives you access to a high-quality plan. It's also worth remembering that your out-of-pocket maximum usually only matters if you get seriously sick or injured.

However, if you don't mind sacrificing quality for cost, consider Cigna, which has a lower out-of-pocket maximum of $5,215 and a slightly below-average star rating of 3.5.

  • PPO (preferred provider organization): This plan type lets you see doctors outside of your network, but you will pay more. In addition, you don't need a primary care doctor, and you don't need a referral to see a specialist.
  • HMO (health maintenance organization): This plan type requires you to choose a primary care doctor, and you need your doctor to give a referral to see a specialist. You can't go outside of your network of doctors unless it's an emergency.

Humana sells both PPO and HMO plans. However, it offers roughly five times as many PPO plans as HMO plans.

Humana's $0 PPO Medicare Advantage plans have an average OOPM of $6,156 compared to $4,800 for HMO plans. It's also important to keep in mind that Humana's PPO plans are rated slightly better than its HMO plans.

It's also worth noting Humana has significantly more $0 5-star plans compared to UnitedHealthcare, the largest Medicare Advantage company. In addition, Humana's free 5-star plans have an out-of-pocket maximum of $4,114, which is roughly $3,000 less than UnitedHealthcare's average out-of-pocket maximum, which is $7,102.

Strongly consider signing up for a free 5-star Medicare Advantage plan if one is available in your area.

$0 Medicare Advantage plans with strong customer service

UnitedHealthcare/AARP Medicare Advantage
  • 4 stars
  • UnitedHealthcare gets 19% fewer complaints compared to an average company its size

UnitedHealthcare gets almost 20% fewer customer complaints compared to an average health insurance company its size according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), an industry group. That makes it a good choice for people who prioritize customer service above other plan quality factors.

In contrast, Humana gets 13% fewer complaints than average, and Cigna and Aetna get 39% and 65% more complaints than average, respectively.

chart of customer satisfaction among Medicare Advantage customers

Customer satisfaction for major Medicare Advantage companies

Complaints relative to average
UHC19% fewer
Humana13% fewer
Cigna39% more
Aetna65% more

UnitedHealthcare's HMO plans stand out as a particularly good choice because they have good medical benefits and an above-average rating of 4.2 stars. With an HMO, you won't have coverage for doctors outside of the plan's network, but this trade-off can be worth it if a low cost is a top priority for you and you don't mind your care running through your primary care doctor.

UnitedHealthcare is the largest Medicare Advantage company in the country. It sells 29% of all Medicare Advantage plans.

You can get a $0 Medicare Advantage plan from UHC in 49 states and Washington, D.C. Although Medicare Advantage plans are not widely available in Alaska, you may be able to get a UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan in that state through your employer, union or government affiliation group.

Best prescription benefits with a free Medicare Advantage plan

Aetna Medigap
  • 3.9 stars
  • Below-average prescription drug costs

Read our full review

Aetna's $0 Medicare Advantage plans have an average prescription drug deductible of $72, which is lower than that of other, well-rated major insurance companies. That means you'll get prescription drug coverage sooner, and you'll pay less than if you went with a major competitor.

Plus, most of Aetna's free plans offer benefits during the coverage gap, also called the donut hole.

The prescription drug "donut hole" will disappear after 2024.

Aetna's $0 HMO plans can be an especially good deal for prescription benefits because 65% of plans have no drug deductible. That means from day one of the policy, you'll only be charged a copay at the pharmacy.

While Aetna has an overall star rating of 3.9, customers gave it 5 stars when asked if they had any complaints about the drug plan. This suggests a high level of satisfaction with the drug part of their Medicare Advantage plans.

Aetna offers the best combination of cost and quality when it comes to prescription drug coverage out of any company with a national presence. However, some regional companies have better deals and similar levels of quality. For example, Kaiser Permanente has $0 Medicare Advantage plans with an average prescription drug deductible of just $4.

Other common $0 Medicare Advantage providers:

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS): Each BCBS subsidiary operates independently. So although $0 Medicare Advantage plans from BCBS are widely available, coverage and customer satisfaction vary widely between locations. For example, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has a high 4.5 average star rating and a low out-of-pocket maximum of $3,584. But, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of IL, NM has an average star rating of just 2.9 and a high out-of-pocket maximum of $6,102.
  • Wellcare: Although Wellcare's $0 plans are available in most places, these $0 plans are not well rated, with an average of 2.9 stars, and customers are frequently unsatisfied with their coverage. A Wellcare plan may be a good choice if you're interested in a "giveback plan" that provides bare-bones coverage while reducing the amount you have to pay for Medicare Part B. Otherwise, another insurance company is likely a better choice.

How can Medicare Advantage plans cost $0?

A free Medicare Advantage plan means the amount that the insurance company gets from the government's Medicare program is enough to cover the cost of the plan. With these $0 plans, you don't have to pay an extra monthly rate to the insurance company.

How it works is that you pay into the government's Medicare program. For most people, this includes paying Medicare taxes while working to fund Medicare Part A, and then paying each month for Medicare Part B when you're enrolled in Medicare.

Then, the government Medicare program gives money to insurance companies based on how many people are enrolled in their Medicare Advantage plans. You're still responsible for paying your medical bills until you hit your deductible, after which you may still have to pay a fixed cost or a percentage of your medical bill until you get to your out-of-pocket maximum.

When is it worth it to upgrade to a more expensive Medicare Advantage plan?

In general, free Medicare Advantage plans with basic benefits are best for those who have typical medical needs and are reasonably healthy.

It's a good idea to pay more for a Medicare Advantage plan if the potential health care savings amount you can get from a more expensive plan is higher than the extra monthly cost. For example, spending $30 per month ($360 per year) would be worth it if it saved you more than $360 on your health care spending in a year.

A more expensive plan can save you money if you have a chronic illness or disability.

This is because it typically reduces health costs through lower out-of-pocket costs, such as your deductible, copay and coinsurance.

You can calculate if it's worth it to upgrade by comparing the extra cost for a plan against the potential savings you're likely to get from the extra benefits. Remember to consider all types of coverage including medical care, prescriptions, dental, vision and hearing.

With medical care, plans will cover the same essential services, and the difference will be how much you pay for them. But Part C plans aren't legally required to pay for services such as comprehensive dental or hearing aid coverage, which may only be available with more expensive plans.

Frequently asked questions

What is a zero-dollar Medicare Advantage plan?

A $0 Medicare Advantage plan is one without a monthly rate. These plans are run by private companies, but they're funded by the government.

How easy is it to get a free Medicare Advantage plan?

Free Medicare Advantage plans are widely available, and these $0 plans are offered by 99% of insurance companies that sell plans. Free plans are also popular, and two-thirds of Medicare Advantage plans have $0 monthly rates.

Are $0 Medicare Advantage plans a good deal?

Yes, free Medicare Advantage plans can be a good deal because they help you keep your monthly costs low while providing a bundle of coverage that often includes prescriptions, dental and vision care.

However, the $0 plans are best for people who are in good health. If you have a chronic sickness or disability, you'll probably save money with a more expensive plan that has better benefits.

Which insurance company has the best-rated free Medicare Advantage plans?

Humana has 4.3 stars for its $0 Medicare Advantage plans, making it the best-rated option that's widely available. Keep in mind that plan quality differs by location, meaning the best $0 Medicare Advantage plan in your area may be offered by another company.

Sources and methodology

Medicare Advantage data on cost and star ratings is from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Average plan benefits and ratings only include $0 Medicare Advantage plans and exclude PACE plans, special needs plans, Part-B-only plans, employer-sponsored plans, Medicare-Medicaid plans and sanctioned plans. Additional sources include Medicare.gov, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and KFF.

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Callers will be directed to a licensed and certified representative of Medicare Supplement insurance and/or Medicare Advantage HMO, HMO SNP, PPO, PPO SNP and PFFS organizations. Calls will be routed to a licensed insurance agent who can provide you with further information about the insurance plans offered by one or more nationally recognized insurance companies. Each of the organizations they represent has a Medicare contract. Enrollment in any plan depends on contract renewal.

Availability of benefits and plans varies by carrier and location and may be limited to certain times of the year unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. We do not offer every plan available in your area. Currently we represent 73 organizations which offer 5,110 products in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE, or your local State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) to get information on all of your options.

These numbers provided are not specific to your area, but rather represent the number of organizations and the number of products available on a national basis. We will connect you with licensed insurance agents who can provide information about the number of organizations they represent and the number of products they offer in your service area. Not all plans offer all of these benefits. Benefits may vary by carrier and location.

Deductibles, copays, coinsurance, limitations, and exclusions may apply.

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