7 Best Health Insurance Plans for Retirees and Seniors

Best Health Insurance for Retirees and Seniors

For most seniors and retirees, the best health insurance plan will be a Medicare plan. We recommend either a Medicare Advantage plan from Humana or a Medicare Supplement Plan G from AARP/UnitedHealthcare (UHC).

Find Cheap Medicare Plans in Your Area

Currently insured?
It's free, simple and secure.

There may be another good option depending on your age and income. If you have a low income, you may qualify for Medicaid, which is free or low-cost. And if you're under 65 and don't qualify for Medicare, we recommend a Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) plan from the health insurance marketplace.

{"backgroundColor":"ice","content":"\n\u003Cdiv class=\"ShortcodeList--root\"\u003E\n\n \u003Cdiv class=\"ShortcodeList--content\"\u003E\n \u003Cdiv class=\"ShortcodeList--column\"\u003E\n \u003Col class=\"ListOrdered--root\"\u003E\n \u003Cli class=\"ListOrdered--list-item\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Best overall: Medicare\" href=\"#overall\"\u003EBest overall: Medicare\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli class=\"ListOrdered--list-item\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Best if you have a low income: Medicaid\" href=\"#low-income\"\u003EBest if you have a low income: Medicaid\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli class=\"ListOrdered--list-item\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Best Medicare Advantage: Humana\" href=\"#advantage\"\u003EBest Medicare Advantage: Humana\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli class=\"ListOrdered--list-item\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Best Medicare Supplement: Plan G from AARP\/UnitedHealthcare\" href=\"#supplement\"\u003EBest Medicare Supplement: Plan G from AARP\/UnitedHealthcare\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli class=\"ListOrdered--list-item\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Best prescription drug plan: Aetna\" href=\"#part-d\"\u003EBest prescription drug plan: Aetna\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli class=\"ListOrdered--list-item\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Best if you're under 65: Blue Cross Blue Shield\" href=\"#marketplace\"\u003EBest if you're under 65: Blue Cross Blue Shield\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli class=\"ListOrdered--list-item\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Best short-term health insurance: UnitedHealthcare\" href=\"#short-term\"\u003EBest short-term health insurance: UnitedHealthcare\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003C\/ol\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n\u003C\/div\u003E\n\n\n","padding":"double"}

Best overall: Medicare

Medicare is the best health insurance option for seniors and retirees.

For those age 65 and older or who have a qualifying disability, the Medicare program will be the cheapest health insurance with the best benefits. When you were working, you paid into the Medicare program via a Medicare tax on income. Your senior years are the time to take advantage of this investment.

Medicare has several different parts including options from private insurance companies and a public option directly through the Medicare agency. This variety allows you to decide what type of plan works best for you.

There are two main pathways for enrolling in Medicare coverage:

  • Medicare Advantage (also called Medicare Part C) is a health insurance plan that's purchased from a private insurance company. Plans provide bundled coverage for medical care and hospital care, and they frequently include prescription drug coverage, dental and vision.

    Medicare Advantage plans are similar to traditional health insurance plans in how they are structured. For example, they have copayments that you pay for each medical service, a deductible and an out-of-pocket maximum. And because plans are through private insurance companies, you'll have a network of doctors and health care providers affiliated with the plan.

  • Original Medicare lets you combine multiple plans including Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). These two plans are administered directly by the government, and on top of these plans, you can add on additional coverage from private health insurance companies based on your needs.

    You can add on a Medicare Supplement plan (also called Medigap), which reduces your portion of the medical costs from 20% of the bill to nearly $0. Another add-on is a Medicare Part D plan for prescription drug coverage, your only way of getting prescription benefits with Original Medicare.

Best if you have a low income: Medicaid

Medicaid is the most affordable plan for seniors and retirees who have low incomes.

The Medicaid public health insurance program provides free or affordable insurance for those who are eligible. Even if you're over age 65 or enrolled in Medicare, you can qualify for dual enrollment in both Medicaid and Medicare, which will lower your costs.

Qualification criteria for Medicaid vary by state. In 39 states and Washington, D.C., you can qualify for Medicaid if you earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which means you're usually eligible if you earn less than $18,754 as an individual or $25,268 as a couple for 2022. The limits are higher in Alaska and Hawaii, and in 11 states, Medicaid eligibility requires a lower income and can vary by state or situation.

Seniors over age 65 who have incomes that are too high to qualify for Medicaid may still be able to qualify if they have high medical expenses. The Medicaid "spenddown" program lets you subtract your medical expenses from your income, and this reduced amount can be used for Medicaid eligibility.

Best Medicare Advantage: Humana

Humana has the best Medicare Advantage plans because the plans provide a good value on coverage and are well-rated.

Humana stands out as providing the ideal combination of low-cost plans with good coverage that are widely available and have reasonably good ratings. This overall strong performance makes it our pick as the best Medicare Advantage plan provider.

Bundled Medicare Advantage plans are administered by private insurance companies, and you could have more than 20 plans offered in your area. Most people will have access to Medicare Advantage plans starting at $0 per month, and the average cost is $28 per month.

  • Affordable plans: Humana has a variety of low-cost plans that deliver a good value on medical benefits. This means you could have low monthly costs while also having reasonable expenses when you need health services. In many areas, Humana also offers free Medicare Advantage plans, which provide a good opportunity for seniors on a tight budget to have no monthly cost after what they pay for Medicare Part B.
  • Good ratings: On average, Humana Medicare Advantage plans are well-rated on Medicare.gov (4 out of 5 stars), and current policyholders say that both the customer service and quality of medical care are good. Additionally, Humana's overall rating remained steady for 2023, while many other major companies had a decline in ratings.
  • Good prescription benefits: Nearly half of Humana's plans have no prescription drug deductible while still being affordable. This means you'll avoid any upfront prescription costs and will be able to access low copays for medications as soon as the policy begins.
  • Popular and widely available: With plans available across much of the country, Humana is a major insurance company that can help you feel secure about your coverage. Nationwide, 18% of enrollees have a Humana Medicare Advantage plan, making it the second-most popular choice.
  • PPO plans may not have the best benefits: A PPO plan can provide more flexibility about the doctors you can use, but Humana's PPO plans are not always a good deal. They can sometimes be more expensive than PPOs from other companies, and other times, the benefits may not be as good as other options. So even though Humana's HMOs are very good, its PPOs may not be the best choice available.
  • Better-rated options sometimes available: Humana's average ratings are good, but depending on where you live, you may be able to get a 5-star plan from another company. For example, Kaiser Permanente has a smaller service area, but its very high-rated plans can mean that you're more likely to be satisfied with your coverage.
  • Not the best for frequent travelers: If you want more flexibility to receive routine care when you're away from home, consider a company that has a large provider network, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), or a Medigap plan.

Want more options? Check out all our picks for the best Medicare Advantage plans.

{"backgroundColor":"ice","content":"\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWant more options?\u003C\/strong\u003E Check out all our picks for the \u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Best Medicare Advantage Plans\" href=\"https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/best-medicare-advantage-plans\"\u003Ebest Medicare Advantage plans\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E.\n","padding":"double"}

Best Medicare Supplement: AARP/UnitedHealthcare

Medicare Supplement Plan G has the best overall coverage for new enrollees, and AARP/UnitedHealthcare is the best provider.

Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans provide secondary coverage on top of your Original Medicare benefits. Medigap plans will usually cost more than Medicare Advantage, but typically, you'll pay less for medical care with a Medigap plan than with a Medicare Advantage plan. This is especially useful for seniors who are concerned about escalating medical costs as they age.

Medigap plans are different from other types of insurance plans because coverage is standardized by plan letter. That means Medigap Plan G from one company will have the same benefits as Plan G from another company.

Because of this, we recommend that you first choose the plan letter with the benefits you want and then choose the provider that has affordable prices, good ratings and useful add-on perks. For most people, the best provider is AARP/UnitedHealthcare.

  • Why Plan G? As the best plan available to new enrollees, Plan G provides coverage for all available Supplement benefit categories except the Medicare Part B deductible. The only better option is Plan F, which is not available to new enrollees.
  • What does Plan G cover? The plan pays for Medicare Part A copayments and the deductible, so you won't pay anything for hospitalization, hospice care or a skilled nursing facility. It pays for all Medicare Part B copayments and excess charges, so all doctor appointments, treatments and tests will be free after you meet your deductible. It also covers 3 pints of blood and 80% of emergency medical costs when you travel internationally.
  • What medical care will you pay for with Plan G? Plan G doesn't cover the annual Medicare Part B deductible, which is only $226. This means you'll have some out-of-pocket costs for medical care at the beginning of the policy year before your spending reaches that amount.
  • Add-on benefits: In addition to the standardized coverage for medical and hospital care, AARP plans stand out for the wide selection of included add-ons. Policyholders get discounts on vision care, eyewear, dental care, hearing screenings and hearing aids. Enrollees also get a free gym membership, access to a 24/7 nurse line and helpful resources for retirees including mental sharpness tools and driver safety courses.
  • Good value: Plan G from AARP/UnitedHealthcare costs an average of $131 per month for a 65-year-old woman who doesn't smoke. AARP/UHC isn't always the cheapest provider available, but plans are a good deal when you consider the add-on benefits. Rates do change based on whether the state allows age-based price increases, and the average cost at age 80 is $204 per month.
  • Option for in-network savings: Typically, Medigap plans have no networks and can be used at nearly all doctors and medical providers in the country. But if you're willing to give up some of this flexibility, AARP/UnitedHealthcare is one of the few companies that offer Medigap Select Plan G, which only has coverage for in-network providers. Choosing this option can give you the same benefits as a standard Plan G but for prices that are about $10 to $20 cheaper per month.
  • Not the cheapest: The cost of a plan from AARP/UHC is about average, and you may be able to get cheaper rates from Wellcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield or a regional insurance company. Keep in mind that there may be trade-offs because the more affordable plan may be a bare-bones policy without any perks, or the company could have a lower overall performance.
  • Requires AARP membership: You must be an AARP member in order to enroll in an AARP Medigap plan, and you can join during the application process if needed. The costs are minimal, only $16 for the year, but some seniors have complained about AARP's aggressive marketing.
  • More customer complaints than average: UnitedHealthcare receives about 22% more complaints than a typical insurer of its size according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). However, both UHC and AARP actively resolve complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), earning them an A+ rating.

Want more options? Check out all our picks for the best Medicare Supplement plans.

{"backgroundColor":"ice","content":"\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWant more options?\u003C\/strong\u003E Check out all our picks for the \u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Best Medicare Supplement Plans\" href=\"https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/best-medicare-supplement-plans\"\u003Ebest Medicare Supplement plans\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E.\n","padding":"double"}

Best prescription drug plan: Aetna

Aetna/SilverScript has the best overall Medicare Part D plans for prescription drugs and stands out for its combination of good ratings and affordability.

Aetna/SilverScript is the best Medicare Part D provider because you can get good benefits at affordable prices, starting at just $6 per month.

For those choosing Original Medicare, the only way to have coverage for prescription drugs is to sign up for a stand-alone prescription drug plan called Medicare Part D. This is an important coverage component for seniors and retirees because your use of prescription drugs can increase as you age, and medications can be very expensive.

A Part D plan isn't needed for most people choosing Medicare Advantage because prescription drug coverage is included in the plan's benefits. However, there are some less common circumstances where you can add on Part D such as if your Medicare Advantage plan is a Private Fee-for-Service (PFFS) plan or a Medical Savings Account (MSA).

  • Low-cost options: The average cost of Humana's Part D plans is $39 per month, but plans start at $6 per month. Even the cheap plans generally provide a good value on coverage.
  • Affordable generics: The cheapest plan, SilverScript SmartSaver, has no deductible for preferred generic drugs (Tier 1 prescriptions). This means you can start getting the plan's benefits right away without first having to pay full price for these medications. Plus, at many pharmacies, the copay for these prescriptions is only $2 for a 30-day supply, making many routine medications very affordable.
  • Well-rated and popular: Aetna Part D plans have the highest average ratings on Medicare.gov, indicating top quality. And with more than a quarter of Medicare Part D enrollees having an Aetna plan, it's a popular choice for prescription benefits.
  • Mixed customer satisfaction: Even though Aetna's Medicare plans are well-rated and policyholders are likely to keep their coverage, customer satisfaction is lackluster. Policyholders may have frustrations when interacting with Aetna or using the plan's benefits, but the good coverage means enrollees still renew their plans.
  • Mail order prescriptions: Aetna's parent company, CVS, has the lowest customer satisfaction for its prescription delivery services, according to J.D. Power. This means that the increasingly large number of seniors who get their prescriptions through the mail may have some frustrations when getting prescriptions delivered.

Want more options? Check out all our picks for the best Medicare Part D plans.

{"backgroundColor":"ice","content":"\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWant more options?\u003C\/strong\u003E Check out all our picks for the \u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"What's the Best Medicare Part D Plan?\" href=\"https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/best-medicare-part-d\"\u003Ebest Medicare Part D plans\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E.\n","padding":"double"}

Best if you’re under 65: Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield is the best insurance company offering plans on the health insurance marketplace.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has the best overall health insurance plans. They're well-rated plans and widely available through HealthCare.gov or your state marketplace.

A traditional health insurance plan is the best option if you're under 65, don't yet qualify for Medicare and earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. You can get the best deal on these plans through HealthCare.gov, also called the health insurance marketplace.

Health insurance costs can get very high as you age, and for those over 60, a Silver insurance plan costs more than $1,000 per month, on average. However, the health insurance marketplace has a program that offers premium tax credits, which provide discounted rates for those who have low to moderate incomes.

For example, an individual earning $54,360 per year (400% of the federal poverty level) would pay about $387 per month for a Silver health insurance plan. These earnings could include retirement account withdrawals, self-employment earnings, unemployment income or other income sources.

  • Above-average ratings: Blue Cross Blue Shield subsidiaries (excluding Anthem) have an average of 3.6 stars according to performance data compiled by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). In comparison, UnitedHealthcare has 3.4 stars, and Aetna has 3.3 stars.
  • Large network of doctors and medical facilities: Blue Cross Blue Shield is one of the largest health insurance organizations in the country and therefore has one of the largest networks of affiliated medical providers. Even though the list of in-network providers changes by plan, the expansive network is an asset, especially if you're seeking specialized care.
  • Low rate of complaints: According to the NAIC complaint index, BCBS has about half as many complaints as the industry average based on a weighted average of all subsidiaries by total annual premiums.
  • Costs are average: On average, the cost for BCBS health insurance plans usually falls in the middle, so it's neither the cheapest health insurance company nor the most expensive.
  • Regional variations: The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is a collection of independently operated companies, so performance will vary. Some of the best-performing subsidiaries are Highmark, BCBS of Rhode Island and BCBS of Minnesota. Some of the worst-performing companies are BCBS of Indiana and BCBS of New Mexico.

Want more options? Check out all our picks for the best health insurance companies.

{"backgroundColor":"ice","content":"\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWant more options?\u003C\/strong\u003E Check out all our picks for the \u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Best Health Insurance Companies\" href=\"https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/best-health-insurance-companies\"\u003Ebest health insurance companies\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E.\n","padding":"double"}

Best short-term coverage: UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is the best overall company for short-term health insurance plans.

UnitedHealthcare's short-term plans provide some of the broadest coverage available for this type of insurance.

If you have a gap in your insurance coverage, such as after retirement and before Medicare, a short-term policy is a quick way to get benefits. The cost for a short-term plan is usually very low. But plans are not regulated in the same way as traditional insurance. This is important to note because some benefits will be limited, and you may not qualify for a plan because of your age or if you have a preexisting condition.

Seniors should use caution when selecting a short-term policy over other types of health insurance. However, they're a useful solution if you need some coverage for a few months before your Medicare plan or traditional health insurance policy begins.

  • Low-deductible options: UHC plans are available with deductibles as low as $1,000. In contrast, many other companies have deductibles that start much higher. Choosing a low-deductible plan can help allow you to get the benefits of your plan much quicker.
  • Preventive care included: Unlike with many other short-term policy providers, some plans will cover preventive care services. Deductibles and copayments will apply, and the preventive care won't be free, as it is with a traditional health insurance plan that's compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, this is a valuable benefit that gives you more comprehensive coverage.
  • Large network of doctors and medical providers: Even though some plans only cover in-network medical care, UHC's large network of providers gives you more freedom about where you get health care while still staying in the network.
  • Not available for those over 65: The company only offers short-term plans to those aged 19 through 65. Since you become eligible for Medicare at age 65, the plans are best suited for seniors who have a short gap in coverage before qualifying for Medicare.
  • Only offered in 25 states: Many short-term insurance companies operate in a limited service area, and UHC is available in half of the states in the U.S. Notably, short-term policies are not sold by any company in 12 states and the District of Columbia, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
  • High-deductible options have poor coverage: Some plans have deductibles as high as $10,000. This means the plan wouldn't pay out for anything until you spend at least $10,000 on medical care. Even though the cost of these plans is low, making them attractive for retirees with limited incomes, the coverage is worse than a marketplace plan, where the most you could spend on covered medical care is $9,100 per year.

Want more options? Check out all our picks for the best short-term health insurance plans.

{"backgroundColor":"ice","content":"\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWant more options?\u003C\/strong\u003E Check out all our picks for the \u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Best Short-Term Health Insurance Companies\" href=\"https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/short-term-health-insurance\"\u003Ebest short-term health insurance plans\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E.\n","padding":"double"}

Frequently asked questions

When do seniors qualify for Medicare?

At age 65, all seniors will qualify for Medicare, although some people can qualify earlier because of a disability or medical condition.

How much is health insurance for seniors?

For those aged 60 to 65, the full price for a Silver individual health insurance policy can be more than $1,000 per month. However, with marketplace plans, the premium tax credit will provide discounted rates for those who have a low to moderate income. After a senior qualifies for Medicare at age 65, their health insurance will typically cost $193 per month for both Medicare Part B and Part C.

What’s the average monthly cost of health insurance for a retired couple?

For a senior couple, the average cost of Medicare is $56 per month for two Medicare Advantage plan bundles. That's on top of the $329.80 per month that's automatically deducted from their Social Security for two Medicare Part B plans. Most enrollees don't pay anything for Medicare Part A.

Are health insurance premiums tax-deductible for retirees?

Yes, the cost of Medicare or health insurance is considered a medical expense and is therefore tax-deductible on your federal income taxes. This only applies to plans that you pay for out of pocket and would not include a plan that's paid out of a pension or with a Social Security deduction.

Is retiring a qualifying event for health insurance?

Retiring itself is not considered a qualifying event. However, losing your health insurance coverage is a qualifying event that allows you to sign up for insurance on the health insurance marketplace via a special enrollment period (SEP). You'll usually have 60 days after losing coverage to sign up for a plan. After that, you can sign up in the fall during open enrollment.


Methodology

Health insurance plan data was sourced from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) public use files and insurance providers. Insurers were compared based on a variety of factors including cost, coverage, benefits and provider networks. Additional sources include:

Medicare Advantage costs only consider plans that include prescription drug benefits. Our analysis excludes employer-sponsored plans, Special Needs Plans, PACE plans, sanctioned plans and Health Care Prepayment Plans (HCPPs). Medigap costs are based on comprehensive actuarial data for all private insurers, using quotes for a 65-year-old female nonsmoker.

ValuePenguin.com is owned and operated by LendingTree, LLC ("LendingTree"). All rights reserved.

Invitations for application for insurance may be made through QW Insurance Solutions, LLC ("QWIS"), a subsidiary of QuoteWizard.com, LLC ("QuoteWizard"), a LendingTree subsidiary, or through its designated agents, only where licensed and appointed. Licensing information for QWIS can be found here. QWIS is a non-government licensed health insurance agency. Not affiliated with or endorsed by any government agency.

Callers to QWIS 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 to QWIS will be routed to a licensed agent who can provide you with further information about the insurance plans offered by one or more third-party partners of QWIS. 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. QWIS does not offer every plan available in your area. Any information provided is limited to those plans offered in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all of your options.

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

Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed the information contained on this website.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.