Best Cheap Medicare Advantage Plans in North Carolina

Best Cheap Medicare Advantage Plans in North Carolina

Find Cheap Medicare Plans in Your Area

Currently insured?

In North Carolina, it costs an average of $24 per month for a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage.

That's 27% cheaper than the nationwide average of $33 per month. Plus, most residents have access to $0 Medicare Advantage plans, providing options for cheap coverage where there is no additional cost on top of the standardized rate for Medicare Part B.

The best-rated Medicare Advantage plans in North Carolina are from HealthTeam Advantage and Blue Cross Blue Shield. These companies have impressive ratings of 4.5 to 5 stars.

The cheapest companies in the state are Alignment Health Plan and Experience Health, which only offer $0 plans. And the major national insurers of Humana and AARP/UnitedHealthcare have the broadest availability throughout North Carolina.

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How we chose these Medicare plans: Our recommendations for North Carolina Medicare Advantage plans are based on both average cost and insurer quality. We only considered plans that include prescription drug coverage, and when there was a tie, we looked at plan benefits such as deductibles.

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Compare North Carolina Medicare Advantage plans

In North Carolina, there are several insurance companies that provide low-cost Medicare Advantage plans with good benefits. While the competitive marketplace in North Carolina means that benefits are often similar between companies, there are some options that stand out as being a very good deal.

As you can see below, HealthTeam Advantage and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina are the best-rated companies. These policyholders are satisfied with their coverage, and the companies provide good customer service.

The worst Medicare Advantage plans are from Clear Spring Health, which has a low rating of 3 stars and the highest prices, averaging $58 per month.

Company
Avg. monthly cost
Star rating
NC counties offered
Alignment Health Plan$04.015
Experience Health$04.08
Troy Medicare$0N/A17
Aetna$83.878
Cigna$94.221
ApexHealth$9N/A31
AARP UnitedHealthcare$144.294
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina$224.590
Show All Rows

Average cost is based on Medicare Advantage plans offered in North Carolina, while star ratings represent the national average for each company. Troy Medicare and ApexHealth are new insurance companies, and CMS hasn't yet published ratings for these insurers.

Find Cheap Medicare Plans in Your Area

Currently insured?

Nearly all residents in North Carolina have access to $0 Medicare Advantage plans that include prescription drug coverage.

However, if you live in the coastal counties of Carteret, Craven or Onslow, there is only one Medicare Advantage plan available that includes prescription drug coverage, and it's not a good deal. HumanaChoice Regional PPO costs $99 per month and has a high $10,000 out-of-pocket maximum.

In these counties, a Medicare Advantage plan is likely not your best option for coverage. Instead, we recommend that you choose Original Medicare (Parts A and B) and add on a Medicare Supplement plan and Medicare Part D plan. The cost of buying a Supplement and Part D plan may not save you much money on your monthly bills, but you'll pay much less for medical care, helping you save money overall.


Best-rated Medicare Advantage plans in North Carolina

The highest-rated Medicare Advantage plans in North Carolina are from Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) and HealthTeam Advantage.

HealthTeam Advantage has the highest possible rating of 5 stars, but plans are only offered in the Greensboro area. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has a very good average star rating of 4.5 and is available across most of the state, providing more people with high-rated plans.

HealthTeam Advantage (Care N' Care)

  • 5.0 stars
  • Average cost: $38 per month
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Available in the following counties:

  • Alamance
  • Davidson
  • Davie
  • Forsyth
  • Guilford
  • Randolph
  • Rockingham

The best Medicare Advantage plans in North Carolina are from HealthTeam Advantage (also called Care N’ Care Insurance Co. of North Carolina). However, the availability of these 5-star plans is limited to those living in Greensboro and the greater Triad area.

Not only is its star rating impressive, but its $0 Medicare Advantage plan is a very good deal. The cost of medical care is very low when you stay in the network, and the average out-of-pocket maximum of $3,450 provides good protection against expensive medical costs.

HealthTeam Advantage is a part of Cone Health, which manages medical facilities including the Moses Cone Hospital. That means that medical care from these facilities will be included in your plan's network of providers.

Ratings

HealthTeam Advantage's 5-star Medicare Advantage rating is not easy to achieve, and only 16% of plans in the country have this top performance ranking. Keep in mind that ratings don't tell you how good the plan's benefits are. Instead, they measure overall performance in areas like the number of formal complaints and how often appeals are upheld.

Not only are HealthTeam plans well-ranked in the industry, but they're also highly ranked by current policyholders who give top scores for coverage and customer service.

  • Rating of health plan: 5.0 stars
  • Customer service: 5.0 stars
  • Rating of health care quality: 4.0 stars
  • Ability to get appointments and care quickly: 4.0 stars

HealthTeam Advantage trails behind in the categories of getting appointments quickly and the quality of the health care, both of which average 4 stars from policyholders. Even though 4 stars is still good, these ratings mean that policyholders have had some frustrations with their medical care.

Plans and benefits

HealthTeam Advantage offers two Medicare Advantage plans. Both plans are PPOs, which means you'll have coverage for both in-network and out-of-network medical care, but you'll pay more if you go outside the network.

We only recommend the HealthTeam Advantage Plan I, which costs $0 per month.

The more expensive HealthTeam Advantage Plan II costs $75 per month. And paying that extra $900 over the year will only save you a maximum of $250 on medical care, making it not a good deal.

HealthTeam Advantage Plan I
HealthTeam Advantage Plan II
Cost$0$75 per month
($900 per year)
Out-of-pocket max$3,450$3,200
($250 savings from the cheaper plan)

The more expensive Plan II does have lower copayments for medical care, such as emergency care costing $90 instead of $120. However, paying the extra $75 per month would rarely be worth it for these savings.

Moreover, the cheap plan has very good benefits.

The HealthTeam Advantage Plan I has no deductible for medical care or prescription drugs, so your benefits begin right away. Plans also include dental, vision, hearing care, a 24-hour nurse line, a Living Plus wellness program and SilverSneakers.

And copayments for medical care are affordable, costing $0 for your primary care doctor, $30 to see a specialist, $5 for an X-ray and $10 for a dental cleaning. However, if you go out of the network, the cost of medical care can be more than double.

The low cost of in-network care is a strong incentive to use the plan's in-network health care providers, and before enrolling, we recommend that you review the list of providers so you can make sure you'll have convenient access to the doctors and specialists you most frequently use.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

  • 4.5 stars
  • Average cost: $22 per month
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Available in 90 out of the state's 100 counties, and plans are not available in:

  • Camden
  • Carteret
  • Cherokee
  • Clay
  • Craven
  • Currituck
  • Dare
  • Onslow
  • Pasquotank
  • Perquimans

The 4.5-star average rating of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina puts it in the top tier of performers across the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association's network of companies.

BCBS is widely available in North Carolina, and it offers $0 Medicare Advantage plans in all counties where it operates, giving most residents options for coverage that's both affordable and good quality. In particular, the HMO plan called Blue Medicare Choice stands out as the best deal on coverage.

Ratings and access to medical care

Policyholders in North Carolina are generally satisfied with their Blue Cross Blue Shield plans. While they rate their plans 4 stars overall, they give the insurer 5 stars in several other areas of the customer experience.

  • Rating of health plan: 4.0 stars
  • Customer service: 5.0 stars
  • Rating of health care quality: 5.0 stars
  • Ability to get appointments and care quickly: 5.0 stars

Plus, Blue Cross Blue Shield has the largest network of providers overall. And even though the exact network can vary between plans, enrollees usually have access to a wide variety of doctors and hospitals.

Plans and benefits

In North Carolina, BCBS offers five Medicare Advantage plans that include prescription drug coverage, with average costs ranging from $0 to $45 per month.

Medicare Advantage plans
Average cost
Blue Medicare Choice (HMO)$0
Blue Medicare Essential (HMO)$0
Blue Medicare Essential Plus (HMO)$13
Blue Medicare Enhanced (HMO)$41
Blue Medicare PPO Enhanced (PPO)$45

Among the cheap plans, Blue Medicare Choice has the best benefits.

In the counties we reviewed, it has a $0 deductible for medical care and prescription drugs. It also has a low out-of-pocket maximum of $3,400 for covered services. These benefits make the plan better than the Essential or Essential Plus plans, which have a prescription drug deductible of a few hundred dollars and an out-of-pocket maximum that's a few thousand dollars higher.

The Blue Medicare Choice plan includes dental, vision and hearing care, as well as fitness benefits. Plus there's an allowance of $280 per year to buy over-the-counter products. However, the plan doesn't cover many nonroutine dental services.

Depending on your medical needs, other BCBS plans can be a good deal, especially if you need comprehensive dental coverage. To identify which plan has the best balance of coverage based on your needs, we recommend you compare your total annual costs including what you pay for the plan and health care, including medical treatment, dental care, prescription drugs and other health services. The plan with the lowest annual costs is the best choice for you.

PPO vs. HMO

While Blue Cross Blue Shield offers four HMO plans in North Carolina, the one PPO plan can be a good choice if you don't need extensive medical care and you want the freedom to sometimes see out-of-network doctors.

When we compare the Blue Medicare PPO Enhanced plan to the $0 Blue Medicare Choice plan, we see that both plans have no deductibles and similar copayments for in-network care. However, for out-of-network care, the HMO plan offers no coverage, and with the PPO plan, you'll usually pay about 40% of the cost.

For those needing expensive medical services, the HMO plan is a much better deal. Its out-of-pocket max of $3,400 can save you thousands of dollars in medical bills as compared to the PPO plan's out-of-pocket max of $5,900. Yet for those who value more flexibility in their medical care, the PPO plan can provide more options.

Read more: Blue Cross Blue Shield review


Best cheap Medicare Advantage in North Carolina

Alignment Health Plan and Experience Health have the best, cheap Medicare Advantage plans in North Carolina.

Both companies only offer $0 plans, and the average rating of 4 stars means you can get good quality coverage at affordable rates.

These smaller insurance companies operate regionally. Experience Health offers plans in the Durham area, and Alignment Health operates in the central and western parts of the state including Asheville, Wilkesboro and Raleigh.

Alignment Health Plan

  • 4.0 stars
  • Average cost: $0 per month
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Available in the following counties:

  • Avery
  • Buncombe
  • Chatham
  • Davidson
  • Davie
  • Forsyth
  • Guilford
  • Henderson
  • Johnston
  • Madison
  • McDowell
  • Mitchell
  • Transylvania
  • Wake
  • Wilkes

All of Alignment's Medicare Advantage plans cost $0 per month, and with an average rating of 4 stars, it's one of the best cheap Medicare Advantage providers in North Carolina.

Even though plans are good, there are some trade-offs compared to the top-ranking companies in the state. For example, the size of the provider network is smaller, and the company's advertisements for customer-centric coverage do not match the policyholder experience.

Ratings

Policyholders give Alignment Health mixed reviews. Although they're happy with their plan overall, the quality of health care is mediocre, and users say it can take longer to get medical care.

  • Rating of health plan: 5.0 stars
  • Customer service: 4.0 stars
  • Rating of health care quality: 3.0 stars
  • Ability to get appointments and care quickly: 2.0 stars

Alignment is a startup insurance company that pitches itself as having a "concierge" type experience where doctors, hospitals and medical providers are on the same page to coordinate a patient's total care experience.

Despite the marketing rhetoric, Alignment policyholders give the company just 1 star for its care coordination efforts. Other providers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield have better care coordination, with a rating of 4.5 stars.

Plans and benefits

All Medicare Advantage plans from Alignment Health cost $0 per month, have no deductibles and have benefits that are on par with what you can get from Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The HMO plans are an especially good deal. For example, the Alignment Health Plan NC Premier plan has a very low out-of-pocket maximum of $2,499, giving you good protection against expensive medical bills. The plan also includes other benefits like vision, dental, hearing and fitness. However, the HMO-style plan means you're only covered for in-network care, making it important to check the network of doctors and medical facilities before enrolling.

The Alignment AVA (PPO) plan provides some out-of-network coverage, but enrollees have a higher out-of-pocket maximum of $3,900 for in-network care and $7,900 for both in-network and out-of-network care. This out-of-network coverage can give you more flexibility in your medical care, but there is a trade-off because your medical costs can be higher.

Experience Health

  • 4.0 stars
  • Average cost: $0 per month
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Available in the following counties:

  • Durham
  • Franklin
  • Granville
  • Lee
  • Orange
  • Person
  • Vance
  • Wake

Experience Health is another good, cheap Medicare Advantage provider in North Carolina. The 4-star company only offers one plan in North Carolina, which costs $0 per month. The benefits are reasonably good, and policyholders get lots of perks such as a $400-per-year allowance to spend on over-the-counter products ordered online.

Policyholders are overwhelmingly satisfied with their medical benefits. However, the company falls short on its prescription drug benefits.

Ratings

Experience Health stands out for its positive feedback from policyholders, who give the plan top scores in several important categories:

  • Rating of health plan: 5.0 stars
  • Customer service: 5.0 stars
  • Rating of health care quality: 5.0 stars
  • Getting appointments and care quickly: 5.0 stars

Despite these good reviews, Experience Health is not one of North Carolina's highest-rated Medicare companies because of its prescription drug coverage. Policyholders only give 2 stars to the prescription benefits included in the Medicare Advantage plan.

This could be, in part, because Experience Health uses a company called Prime Therapeutics to manage its pharmacy benefits. And the cost of prescriptions can vary widely. Prime specifically says that the cost of prescriptions can change each time you fill a prescription, even when you use the same pharmacy. Costs can also vary between in-network pharmacies.

Policyholders are encouraged to compare their medication costs each time they get a prescription filled, but this is an added hassle, especially for those who are not comparison shoppers.

Plans and benefits

The one plan offered by the company is Experience Health Medicare Advantage (HMO). It costs $0 per month in each of the eight counties where it's offered.

Not only is the plan affordable, but it also has good medical benefits. There is no deductible for medical care or prescription drugs. The copayments are affordable with free primary care appointments, $20 for specialist appointments and $35 for urgent care.

The plan covers hearing exams, vision care, prescription lenses, comprehensive dental, a SilverSneakers membership and a free medical alert system. Plus, the perk of giving policyholders $400 to spend on over-the-counter products each year can help reduce other expenses.

The out-of-pocket maximum is $4,200, which is good, but it's not as good as the Blue Medicare Choice cap of $3,400, based on sample plans offered in Raleigh.

The costs of generic drugs are affordable, only $0 to $5 for a 30-day prescription. However, brand-name drugs can get expensive, costing $45 for Tier 3 prescriptions and $99 for Tier 4 prescriptions.

Most residents in North Carolina can choose Medicare Advantage plans from Humana and UnitedHealthcare (UHC).

Both companies have affordable plans starting at $0 per month and have good star ratings averaging 4.1 to 4.2. Plus, their national reputation can help you feel more secure in your coverage than with a regional insurance company.

Humana

  • 4.1 stars
  • Average cost: $42 per month
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Availability:

  • All North Carolina counties

Humana is a great choice for affordable and high-quality Medicare Advantage plans. Plans are offered in every county in the state, and despite the company's high average cost, $0 plans are widely available. Only five counties in eastern North Carolina don't have a $0 plan from Humana as an option (Carteret, Craven, Dare, Lenoir and Onslow).

Ratings

Policyholder feedback about Humana is middle-of-the-road, and even though Humana is a well-known company, users are not as positive about Humana as other companies.

  • Rating of health plan: 3.4 stars
  • Customer service: 3.7 stars
  • Ability to get appointments and care quickly: 3.6 stars
  • Rating of health care quality: 3.4 stars

However, Humana plans stand out for their hassle-free prescription drug coverage. On J.D. Power's customer satisfaction survey for mail order prescriptions, Humana Pharmacy ranked as No. 1. It scored even better than the pharmacy of Kaiser Permanente, which is widely regarded as the top insurance company.

This means that those who take regular prescriptions have a stress-free way to get their medications delivered.

Plans and benefits

In North Carolina, Humana offers five plans that include prescription drug coverage.

Plan
Average cost
Humana Gold Plus (HMO)$0
Humana Gold Plus (HMO-POS)$15
HumanaChoice (PPO)$25
Humana Gold Choice (PFFS)$87
HumanaChoice (regional PPO)$99

The costs of the plans and their medical benefits vary by location. When we look at sample plans offered in Charlotte, the $0 Humana Gold Plus plan provides good coverage. It has no deductible for medical care or prescription drugs.

As compared to Blue Cross Blue Shield's $0 plan, Humana's plan has a slightly worse out-of-pocket maximum — $4,400 versus $3,400. And Humana's copayments are similar to those of BCBS with some services like urgent care costing less and other services like inpatient hospitalization costing more.

Plans include some perks like routine dental, vision and hearing care. There's also an over-the-counter allowance to use to order products through the Humana Pharmacy store, and enrollees have access to the SilverSneakers fitness program. However, the plans don't cover several extras such as chiropractic care, comprehensive dental care or in-home support services.

Read more: Humana review

AARP/UnitedHealthcare

  • 4.2 stars
  • Average cost: $14 per month
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Available in 94 out of the state's 100 counties, and plans are not available in:

  • Brunswick
  • Carteret
  • Craven
  • New Hanover
  • Onslow
  • Robeson

UnitedHealthcare sells Medicare Advantage plans through several brand names, including AARP.

With an average star rating of 4.2 and several low-cost plan options, a plan from UHC is often in the sweet spot for balancing affordability and quality. That's why it's the most popular Medicare Advantage company in the country, issuing 27% of all plans.

UnitedHealthcare plans are available across most of North Carolina, and $0 plans are available in every county where the company operates.

Ratings and provider network

Similar to Humana, customer feedback about UnitedHealthcare is middle-of-the-road. There are some 5-star contracts from UnitedHealthcare offered in North Carolina, and choosing one of these plans can be a way to get great coverage. However, typical ratings from policyholders are closer to average.

  • Rating of health plan: 3.5 stars
  • Customer service: 3.6 stars
  • Rating of health care quality: 3.6 stars
  • Ability to get appointments and care quickly: 3.4 stars

Plus, UnitedHealthcare is a major insurance company that has a network of about 1.3 million medical providers. Even though the exact doctors and facilities can vary by plan, you'll likely have more doctors to choose from than with a smaller insurance company.

Plans and medical benefits

Eight Medicare Advantage plans from UnitedHealthcare are offered in North Carolina. Three have the Erickson brand, which is paired with the Erickson Senior Living community located near Charlotte.

The other five plans, with the AARP brand, are widely available for everyone and provide good options for affordable coverage.

Plan
Monthly cost
AARP Medicare Advantage Plan 2 (HMO-POS)$0
AARP Medicare Advantage Walgreens (HMO-POS)$0
Erickson Advantage Liberty with Drugs (HMO-POS)$0
AARP Medicare Advantage Choice (PPO)$7
AARP Medicare Advantage Choice Plan 2 (PPO)$26
AARP Medicare Advantage Plan 1 (HMO-POS)$35
Erickson Advantage Freedom (HMO-POS)$70
Erickson Advantage Signature with Drugs (HMO-POS)$199

Importantly, all AARP/UHC plans in North Carolina have some degree of out-of-network coverage, making them a great choice for those who spend time traveling or who want more flexibility to choose their doctors.

With an HMO-POS plan, out-of-network coverage is limited to select services, but a PPO plan will give you the best coverage for out-of-network care. There are options in North Carolina that start at $0 per month.

Plus, UnitedHealthcare is known for its add-on benefits, and even the cheap plans usually include comprehensive dental, vision care, an allowance toward frames or contacts, hearing aid coverage, fitness benefits and healthy living rewards.

Read more: AARP/UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage review


How to sign up for Medicare in North Carolina

  1. Determine if you're eligible: Medicare eligibility in North Carolina is the same as in the rest of the country. You're eligible for Medicare when you turn 65 or if you qualify through a disability or medical condition.
  2. Apply for Original Medicare: Initial enrollment starts by applying for Medicare benefits through the Social Security Administration. This process will confirm your eligibility, after which you'll receive your Medicare card.
  3. Choose your plan: Whether you choose to bundle your coverage with Medicare Advantage or you want to add on coverage on top of Original Medicare, the next step is to choose from the plans offered by private insurance companies operating in North Carolina.
  4. Compare costs: Remember that comparing your total costs for the year can help you find the best deal for your current medical needs. Medicare Advantage plans have open enrollment every year from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, allowing you to change your coverage each year.
  5. Use local resources: In North Carolina, the Seniorsʼ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) provides free, independent Medicare counseling to answer your questions and help you navigate the Medicare enrollment process.

North Carolina Medicare enrollment statistics

Medicare enrollees in North Carolina: 2.4 million

Number of Medicare providers operating in North Carolina: 18

Average monthly cost in North Carolina:

  • Medicare Advantage: $24
  • Medicare Part D: $47

Medicare Advantage enrollment (enrollment as a percentage of all Medicare beneficiaries)

  • National average: 42%
  • North Carolina: 40%
  • Guilford County: 62%
  • Forsyth County: 60%
  • Rowan County: 53%
  • Mecklenburg County: 45%
  • Wake County: 42%
  • Buncombe County: 38%
  • Brunswick County: 31%
  • Pamlico County: 22%
  • Dare County: 16%
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Frequently asked questions

Does North Carolina have Medicare?

Yes, Medicare is a national program that provides health insurance to seniors and those who have a qualifying disability. Medicare Advantage plans are offered in every North Carolina county.

How much does Medicare Part B cost in North Carolina?

The cost of Medicare Part B changes each year, and the standard rate is currently $170.10 per month. Note that if you earn more than $91,000, you'll pay more for Medicare Part B, and costs can extend up to $578 per month depending on your tax filings.

How much does Medicare Advantage cost in North Carolina?

A Medicare Advantage plan costs an average of $24 per month in North Carolina. That's cheaper than the national average, and most residents have options for plans that cost $0 per month.

Does Medicare cover dental in North Carolina?

Most Medicare Advantage plans in North Carolina cover routine dental care. There are also some plans available that cover comprehensive dental, including extractions, periodontics and dentures.

What is the income limit for Medicare in North Carolina?

The Medicare program does not have an income limit for eligibility. Instead, residents can enroll at age 65 or if they have a qualifying disability. However, you can have dual enrollment if you qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. To qualify for Medicaid in North Carolina, an individual must earn less than $13,590 per year or a family of four must earn less than $27,750.

Methodology and sources

Data on Medicare plans was sourced from the public use files from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Our analysis of North Carolina Medicare Advantage plans only includes the plans that have prescription drug coverage and excludes Special Needs Plans (SNPs), Medicare-Medicaid plans and employer group plans. Comparisons were made by cost, coverage and quality.

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.