The best Medicare Advantage policy for you will depend on finding the right combination of high ratings, affordable monthly costs and good coverage for medical services.
Best Medicare Advantage Plans
Among the options this year, Humana stands out as offering low-cost plans with good benefits. But each insurance company will have its pros and cons. For example, Kaiser Permanente is the best-rated company on Medicare.gov, but it isn't the best for most people because of its higher costs and limited availability.
If you want flexibility about where you go for medical care, Blue Cross Blue Shield has the largest selection of doctors in its network. And if you're looking for cheap coverage, keep in mind that choosing a lower-rated company could mean your insurance could be more frustrating.
Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, is a bundled insurance plan that covers a full set of health benefits including hospitalization, doctor care and often prescription drugs, dental and vision. This makes it a great way to simplify your insurance and access coverage that's at least as good as Original Medicare (Parts A and B).
Overall best Medicare Advantage provider: Humana
- Average monthly cost: $32
Humana offers a wide range of Medicare Advantage plans that are a good value, are well-rated and have great prescription benefits for the 2023 plan year.
Humana's combination of high-rated plans that are affordable and widely available makes it our top pick for the best Medicare Advantage provider for 2023.
While AARP/UnitedHealthcare (UHC) is a close second, Humana stands out this year for its improved plan options that provide good benefits for low monthly rates. Humana's overall rating on Medicare.gov has remained steady between 2022 and 2023, while many other companies, including AARP/UHC, had their ratings decline.
Current customers say the quality of health care they get with a Humana Medicare Advantage plan is better than with AARP/UHC. And Humana's customer service is slightly better than the industry average, so you may have fewer frustrations if you need to call.
Humana's Medicare Advantage plans usually have good prescription drug benefits. About 43% of plans have no drug deductible while only costing an average of $17 per month. And Humana's mail order pharmacy, CenterWell, continues to rank highly for customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power's latest study.
Humana also offers useful add-on benefits such as access to the popular SilverSneakers program, dental discounts of 20%-60%, vision discounts, resources for nutrition and weight loss, discounts for fall-detection systems and alternative care such as acupuncture and massage.
For those who are looking for a good deal, consider one of Humana's $0 HMO Medicare Advantage plans, which help you save on monthly bills while also usually providing a low cap on how much you'll spend on medical care. The typical out-of-pocket maximum for these Humana plans is $4,776 per year. Remember that an HMO plan will limit your coverage to the doctors and hospitals in the plan's network (except in an emergency), making it important to check that you'll have access to your preferred medical professionals.
On the other hand, if you would prefer a PPO plan to have more flexibility about your doctors, look closely at the costs because a Humana PPO may not be as good of a deal as you can get from another company.
Find Cheap Medicare Plans in Your Area
Most popular Medicare Advantage company: AARP/UnitedHealthcare
- Average monthly cost: $18
For many people, AARP/UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans fall into the sweet spot for having good benefits at an affordable price.
AARP/UnitedHealthcare is the most popular Medicare Advantage provider with 28% of all enrollment. Plans are well-rated and have affordable premiums and add-on benefits, a valuable combination that could account for AARP/UHC having the largest number of Medicare Advantage enrollees.
AARP Medicare Advantage plans are administered by UnitedHealthcare (UHC), which offers good benefits and a wide network of providers. There's also the option to get a PPO plan for better access to out-of-network care.
This year, the company's plans are not as highly rated as those from Kaiser Permanente or Humana, but they are still rated above average while also being priced affordably at $18 per month, on average.
The company stands out for its broad range of add-on programs and discounts including vision, dental, free gym memberships, mental fitness and a credit toward over-the-counter products. These programs can be especially useful for those who want to stay healthy on a budget.
For most people, AARP's prescription drug benefits have good coverage with a typical annual drug deductible being about $84. And for those who need expensive medications, many plans provide benefits during the coverage gap (also called the donut hole). This is an important benefit that can protect those with high prescription drug costs from paying more for medications at some point in the policy year.
AARP Medicare Advantage plans have some downsides, and a high percentage of enrollees are unhappy or frustrated with their plans. In J.D. Power's Medicare Advantage survey, UnitedHealthcare falls short on customer satisfaction, ranking slightly below the industry average.
Medicare Advantage company with most doctors in its network: Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Average monthly cost: $38
Consider Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) if you want the strength of an established insurance company and the flexibility of a large network of doctors and medical providers.
When comparing provider networks, keep in mind that it's not always an apples-to-apples comparison because each company publicizes its figures slightly differently. However, the overall trends can give you a snapshot of how broad the health care access could be in your area.
- BCBS/Anthem: 90% of doctors and hospitals
- Cigna: 1.5 million health care providers, clinics and facilities
- UnitedHealthcare (AARP): 1.3 million health care providers
- Aetna: 1.2 million health care providers
- Humana: 560,000 providers in the ChoiceCare and Behavioral Health networks
- Centene: 238,000 physicians
- Kaiser Permanente: 80,000 physicians and nurses
Most of the doctors in the country are affiliated with Blue Cross Blue Shield, making the company a good choice for those who are seeking flexibility about where they get their medical care.
Whether BCBS is operating in your area as Anthem, Highmark or another subsidiary, the company's massive footprint can give you access to one of the industry's largest network of medical providers. Not only can this help you see doctors you like, but it can also be especially useful for those who need specialized health care.
Keep in mind that the list of in-network providers varies between plans. Those concerned about provider access should choose a PPO plan to get coverage for out-of-network care, but expect to pay more for these plans and any medical care they get outside of the network.
In general, Medicare Advantage plans from BCBS are more expensive than plans from some other providers. However, a variety of plans are available, and many locations have options for free Medicare Advantage plans as well as more expensive plans with better benefits.
While BCBS has an overall good rating of 3.8 stars, each subsidiary is managed independently. This means that there are major regional variations. The highest-performing subsidiaries are in Alabama, Delaware, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and West Virginia. The lowest-rated plans are in Maryland, South Carolina and Washington.
Best Medicare Advantage for customer satisfaction: Kaiser Permanente
- Average monthly cost: $48
Kaiser Permanente's customer are overwhelmingly satisfied with their plans according to national surveys, making it a good choice for those who live in areas where plans are available.
Kaiser Permanente has very high rates of customer satisfaction and offers the most 5-star Medicare Advantage plans. The company stands far ahead of other national providers, making it a good choice for those who are willing to pay for a more expensive plan in order to get good benefits.
A typical policy costs more than $40 per month, but many plans have a $0 deductible, so you get the cost-sharing benefits as soon as you enroll. The copayments for medical care are also affordable, and with the sample plans we reviewed, a doctor visit could cost $15, an X-ray could cost $25 and a trip to the emergency room could cost $90.
Importantly, Kaiser's plans have a limited provider network because the Medicare Advantage plans are paired with Kaiser’s medical centers and hospitals. This can be a helpful way to streamline your care because you can manage your health records and insurance coverage through the same online portal. And customers rate the quality of their medical care very highly, making access to Kaiser's health facilities a key benefit of the plans.
The downside is you'll have less flexibility in where to go for medical care. Even though enrollees still have broad coverage during emergencies or when outside of the service area, these plans are not a good fit for those who prefer a wide network of health care providers. In particular, those who need specialized medical care should check that the in-network providers can meet their health needs.
Customers with Kaiser Permanente can also choose to add the insurer's Advantage Plus package, which provides coverage for dental services, hearing aids and eyewear.
Cheapest Medicare Advantage provider: Cigna
- Average monthly cost: $7
Cigna offers cheap prices for Medicare Advantage plans, and its PPO plans are an especially good value, costing only $2 per month on average.
Cigna's Medicare Advantage plans stand out for those who are looking for affordable coverage. Most plans are available for no monthly cost on top of what you pay for Original Medicare.
Even though Cigna's average cost of $7 per month is the same as Wellcare's, Cigna has a much higher rating from Medicare.gov with an average of 3.6 stars versus Wellcare's rating of 2.8. This means that Cigna's plans are a much better choice for low-cost coverage that also has good customer satisfaction and a network of high-quality medical providers.
In particular, Cigna's PPO plans can be an especially good value for those who need low to moderate amounts of medical care and want flexibility about their doctors and medical providers. Many PPO plans are available at no monthly cost, which is a good deal because PPO plans typically cost more than HMO plans. The plans also have a good prescription drug deductible that averages just $22 per year.
And while the benefits of a Cigna PPO plan can be good for someone who needs typical or moderate amounts of medical care, the higher out-of-pocket maximum of $7,550 means that someone who needs surgery or ongoing medical care could have to pay for more of their medical care before the insurance company starts paying for 100% of the bills.
Although existing Cigna customers are as satisfied with their plans as customers who have Humana or AARP/UHC, a key downside of Cigna's Medicare Advantage is the company's customer service. With just 2.8 stars for its customer service, customers likely face some frustrations when calling their insurance company.
This means that even though Cigna's Medicare Advantage plans are a great value, they're not the best choice for those who want smooth interactions with their insurance company.
Worst Medicare Advantage plans: Wellcare/Centene
The worst Medicare Advantage plans are from Wellcare because it has a low overall rating of 2.8 stars, and existing customers give their medical plans just 1.9 stars. Plans may be cheap, averaging only $7 per month, but other major Medicare companies offer low-cost plans that also have better ratings.
|Medical plan customer rating||1.9|
|Health care quality customer rating||2.9|
List of the top-rated Medicare Advantage plans by state
The best Medicare Advantage plan for you also depends on where you live because insurance companies may offer plans in limited areas. For those who are looking for the highest-rated coverage, consider one of the companies offering 5-star plans somewhere in your state.
Companies that offer 5-star Medicare Advantage plans
Note that Alaska's Medicare Advantage options are limited and poorly rated, so most Medicare enrollees choose to enroll in Original Medicare (Parts A and B) with supplemental coverage from a private Medigap plan, employer plan or Medicaid.
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 factors 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.
1. Compare monthly costs
Usually, there's a trade-off between how much you pay for a plan (called the monthly premium) and how much you could pay for medical services (deductible, copays, coinsurance and the out-of-pocket maximum). For example, if you select a plan with a higher monthly premium, then the deductible and the amount you need to pay out of pocket are usually lower.
2. Assess how much health care you expect to need
To minimize your costs, you should match your medical needs to the plan's benefits. For example, those who need expensive health services such as surgery should focus on a plan with a low out-of-pocket maximum, which will provide a good cap on annual medical expenses. However, those who have typical or moderate medical needs should look more closely at the plan's deductible and the coinsurance or copayment, which is the cost-sharing rate you'll pay for health services.
3. Consider any other benefits that are included
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.
4. Look at provider networks
A Medicare Advantage plan will have a list of preferred doctors and medical providers. An HMO plan will only cover your medical care if you go to one of these in-network providers, and with a PPO plan, you'll pay less if you stay in-network for medical care. For this reason, it is important to carefully review the network of each plan 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 buy.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best Medicare Advantage plan?
For 2023, Humana has the best Medicare Advantage plans for most people because of its combination of good ratings, low costs and good benefits. We also recommend AARP/UnitedHealthcare for its popular plans that are nearly as well-rated. Kaiser Permanente has the highest customer satisfaction but has limited availability and can be expensive.
Which Medicare Advantage plan has the best dental coverage?
Medicare Advantage plans from AARP/UnitedHealthcare have some of the best dental benefits. You'll get coverage for a wide network of dentists. Plus, routine or preventive services are free if you stay in-network. However, comprehensive dental coverage varies for the $0 plans. Some plans may cap their dental benefits, only paying $1,000 per policy year. Others don't have a cap but instead have lower cost-sharing benefits, meaning you'll spend more for each dental service.
What’s the best way to compare Medicare Advantage plans?
When comparing Medicare Advantage plans, there are two main things to consider: cost and coverage. For cost, consider the total amount that you'll pay for health care and insurance. In some cases, you'll get a better deal by paying more for a policy that has better benefits, helping you to save on health care. For coverage, make sure a plan gives you strong benefits in the areas you expect to need the most, such as diabetes care, prescription drugs or inpatient surgery.
Medicare Advantage company reviews and comparisons are based on a variety of rating factors including cost, coverage, benefits and provider networks. ValuePenguin's best overall pick is based on a 100-point scale with up to 25 points given in each of the four criteria of cost, overall rating on Medicare.gov, number of counties where plans are available and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) survey data of how policyholders rate customer service.
Plan details were sourced from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) public use files. Calculations are based on 2023 Medicare Advantage plans that include prescription drug coverage. Special needs plans, sanctioned plans, PACE plans, prepayment plans (HCPPs), Medicare savings account (MSA) plans, Medicare-Medicaid plans and employer-sponsored plans were excluded from our analysis. Averages include company subsidiaries.