Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, provides health coverage that is more extensive than what is offered through Medicare Part A and B, including dental coverage, vision coverage and other extras depending on the company. Available through private-sector health insurers, you are eligible to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan only after you enroll in Medicare Part A and B.
Best Medicare Advantage companies of 2021
The best Medicare Advantage company will depend on what you value in your health insurance. For example, if you are looking for cheap coverage, then purchasing a plan with the largest provider network would be more expensive and would not make sense. On the other hand, if you require health care specialists, then purchasing a plan with that diverse provider network would be something to consider.
Best Medicare Advantage for most: Highmark
- J.D. Power rank: First of 10 insurers
- A.M. Best rating: A (Excellent)
- Unique value: Vast provider network, offering shoppers a better chance of having a preferred doctor in-network
Highmark is rated as having the best provider choice by J.D. Power's 2020 Medicare Advantage Study. This means that Medicare Advantage policyholders rate Highmark as having a wide selection of primary care physicians, doctors, specialist doctors, retail clinics and urgent care centers.
Having a vast and abundant provider network can be crucial for many seniors who may not want to travel long distances to visit an in-network doctor. Additionally, policyholders may have a preferred doctor and want to choose a policy that includes that doctor in-network.
Highmark offers three different levels of Medicare Advantage: Community, Freedom and Security. The main differences between the levels are the monthly premiums, coinsurance and deductibles that you are required to pay out of pocket before the insurance kicks in.
Best cheap Medicare Advantage: Aetna
- J.D. Power rank: Fifth of 10 insurers
- A.M. Best rating: A (Excellent)
- Unique value: Highly affordable health coverage for most people
A cheap Medicare Advantage policy that also provides standard coverage can be purchased through Aetna. Like other Medicare Advantage plans, an Aetna policy would provide you the standard Medicare A and B along with added benefits. However, added benefits such as primary care physician copays will be more expensive when compared to a policy like Kaiser Permanente's Senior Advantage Basic.
On the other hand, costs are cheap. Aetna's Medicare Advantage plans sometimes come with a $0 premium — though policyholders will still have to pay copays or higher rates for out-of-network procedures and treatment.
Best Medicare Advantage for complete coverage: Kaiser Permanente
- J.D. Power rank: Second of 10 insurers
- A.M. Best rating: A- (Excellent)
- Unique value: A wide range of extra services and coverage offsets a higher cost
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, offered by Kaiser Permanente, was highly ranked by J.D. Power in the agency's 2020 Medicare Advantage Study. Though Kaiser Permanente plans can be among the more expensive plans in the marketplace, selecting a higher cost policy would allow you to get other benefits. These may include lower out-of-pocket payments for urgent care, inpatient hospitalization and ambulance services.
Policyholders with Kaiser Permanente may also choose to add the insurer's Advantage Plus coverage. This add-on costs $44 per month and includes dental services, eyewear benefits and hearing aid coverage — which aren't covered by a regular Medicare Advantage plan.
Medicare Advantage company ratings
Medicare Advantage providers are given grades from rating agencies on different factors like financial strength and customer reviews. These metrics can be extremely useful when you are trying to analyze an insurance company and choose your best provider. Some of the most common third-party ratings can include:
- AM Best: AM Best is a credit rating agency that gives Medicare Advantage providers a financial health score. A++ or "Superior" is the top grade available, and usually any company above A- is in an above-average financial situation.
- Better Business Bureau (BBB): The BBB rating system is a grade given to a company between A+ and F, which is determined by the complaint history and how responsive the company is to complaints.
- J.D. Power: J.D. Power is a global marketing information services company that ranks some of the best Medicare Advantage companies on their customer satisfaction. Its rankings give each provider a number between 0 and 1,000 and use rating factors like price, customer satisfaction, policy offerings and interaction.
By reviewing all these ratings, you can get an excellent picture of the inner workings of many providers. Then, looking at policy prices, you can determine the best Medicare Advantage companies for you.
How to choose the best Medicare Advantage plan
Choosing your best Medicare Advantage plan will depend on the cost, amount of coverage and provider network of the policy. These will vary greatly when comparing insurers but will also differ between the plans that each provider offers. That's why it's important to understand these categories and how they will change your Medicare health insurance.
Costs, coverage and benefits
Medicare Advantage costs include your monthly premium, deductible, out-of-pocket maximum, copays and coinsurance. The monthly premium for a policy usually determines the level of the deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. For example, if you select a plan with a higher monthly premium, then usually the deductible and the amount you need to pay out of pocket are cheaper.
Additionally, plans usually have copays for certain health events, such as visits to a primary care physician or inpatient care. If you decide to select a cheaper Medicare Advantage plan, your copays may be more expensive.
Some Medicare Advantage policies include added benefits, such as fitness programs, dental care, vision care or online concierge services. You should take these into account before deciding what is the best Medicare Advantage plan for you.
Provider networks are typically associated with the health insurance provider that is offering the Medicare Advantage plan. This means the company usually sets and negotiates the relationships with the doctors. For this reason, it is important to carefully review the network — either HMO, PPO, EPO or POS — for each company you are considering.
For example, if you have a preferred primary care physician who you have used throughout your life, we would recommend confirming with that doctor that they are within the network for the policy you are choosing to purchase.
Medicare Advantage company ratings were determined using a variety of ratings factors including: cost, coverage, benefits and provider networks. Additionally, ValuePenguin utilized ratings agencies such as A.M. Best, J.D. Power and NAIC complaint ratios to further determine our rankings for the best medicare advantage companies and plans.