Best Cheap Medicare Advantage Plans in Pennsylvania

Best Cheap Medicare Advantage Plans in Pennsylvania

Find Cheap Medicare Plans in Your Area

Currently insured?

We recommend Aetna and UnitedHealthcare as the best overall Medicare Advantage plans in Pennsylvania due to cheap rates, wide availability and good customer satisfaction ratings.

UPMC for Life and Highmark received the highest customer satisfaction scores available based on an annual member survey, but prices are among the three most expensive plans in the state.

Pennsylvania Medicare Advantage plans cost $40 per month on average, but several plans with no monthly cost are available across the state.

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How we chose these Medicare plans: To find the best Medicare Advantage plans in Pennsylvania, we reviewed cost, availability, benefits and quality of service. Our analysis focuses on HMO and PPO plans that include prescription coverage.

How CMS rates Medicare plans: CMS measures several areas of plan performance, including customer service, health care quality and access to care. When comparing Pennsylvania plan options, we focused on state-specific CMS ratings rather than nationwide numbers.

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Compare Medicare Advantage plans in Pennsylvania

Highmark and UPMC for Life have the highest customer service ratings in Pennsylvania, but plans are more expensive than most competitors.

Aetna offers more plan options, lower average rates and a quality rating on par with Highmark and UPMC.

Pennsylvania residents can choose a Medicare Advantage HMO or PPO plan from among 14 providers. Our top four companies offer a combined 64 HMO and PPO policy options and sell at least one free Medicare Advantage plan in every Pennsylvania county.

Company
Avg. monthly cost
# of counties offered
CMS star rating
Highmark Medicare logo
Highmark$10262
logo
Independence Blue Cross$865
UPMC for Life logo
UPMC for Life$7054
Aetna Medicare logo
Aetna Medicare$3267
logo
Capital Blue Cross$5921
logo
Geisinger Gold$4044
UnitedHealthcare/AARP Medigap logo
UnitedHealthcare/AARP$1648
Cigna Medicare logo
Cigna$2712
Show All Rows

Cost is based on the state average for each plan. Star ratings represent the Pennsylvania average for each company. CMS ratings are not yet available for Wellcare.

Find Cheap Medicare Plans in Your Area

Currently insured?

Wellcare by Allwell and Clover Health each received a customer satisfaction score of 3.5, the lowest of all plans in the state. Wellcare by Allwell has the lowest average rates in the state, but customers are not overly satisfied with their plans. Clover Health offers mid-range rates, but you can only get a Clover plan if you live in Bucks, Delaware or Philadelphia county. While a large percentage of Pennsylvania residents live in these areas, Clover is not available if you live in cities like Harrisburg or Allentown.

If you don't find a Medicare Advantage plan to meet your needs, you may consider keeping your Original Medicare and supplementing it with a Medigap plan and a Medicare Part D plan. Medigap plans are also sold throughout Pennsylvania.

A note about HMO and PPO plans

Most Medicare Advantage insurers provide HMO and PPO options, so it may help to understand the differences when shopping for a plan.

  • With an HMO, you must use network health providers, except for emergencies, and you pay the full cost of any care received outside the network. HMOs also require that you coordinate your care through a primary care physician and get referrals for specialty services.
  • PPOs also have plan networks but cover both in-network and out-of-network health care. You usually pay more and have a higher out-of-pocket maximum when you get care outside the PPO network. But with a PPO, you don't need a referral from your primary care doctor to see a specialist.
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Best cheap Medicare Advantage plans in Pennsylvania

UnitedHealthcare is the best cheap plan in Pennsylvania due to its high customer satisfaction rating (4.5 of 5) and low average rate of $16 per month.

UnitedHealthcare

  • CMS rating:

  • Average cost: $16/month
  • Available in 48 counties
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UnitedHealthcare customers are satisfied with their plans, according to CMS customer survey results. The company offers 12 HMO and PPO plans at an average monthly rate of $16, which is below the state average of $40 and lower than several competitors' plans.

Along with standard medical and hospital coverage, many UnitedHealthcare plans include benefits for vision, dental, hearing, fitness, worldwide emergency care and telehealth services. Some plans also cover limited non-emergency transportation for medical needs.

A good UnitedHealthcare option is the AARP Medicare Advantage HMO, which has no monthly cost, no medical or drug deductible and provides limited non-emergency transportation coverage. The $6,700 out-of-pocket maximum is the lowest among UnitedHealthcare plans that include drug coverage. This plan is good for you if you have few healthcare needs and don't mind staying within a network. It allows you to pay for your care as you need it, rather than pay upfront for benefits you may not use.

UnitedHealthcare also has PPO plans, which allow more choices on where you go for health care. The AARP Medicare Advantage Choice Plan 3 PPO doesn't have a monthly premium, but does require a $750 annual medical deductible. You'll pay $21 per month, or $252 per year, for the AARP Medicare Advantage Choice Plan 1 PPO, which has no deductible. So, while you pay monthly for Plan 1, you save $498 per year compared to the deductible cost for Plan 3.

We recommend the UnitedHealthcare Plan 1 PPO over Aetna's Value PPO and the UPMC Flex PPO due to UnitedHealthcare's lower annual out-of-pocket costs. If these plans are all available where you live, the Plan 1 PPO is a better option. UnitedHealthcare also has a larger provider network than Aetna or UPMC for Life, with more than 1.3 million doctors and 6,500 hospitals nationwide.

Read more: UnitedHealthcare review


Most widely available plans with cheap rates

Aetna offers multiple plan options with cheap overall rates across all of Pennsylvania

Aetna earned a CMS star rating of 4.5 and offers 29 plan options across Pennsylvania.

While Aetna's average rates are not the cheapest in Pennsylvania, they are below the overall state average.

Aetna

  • CMS rating:

  • Average cost: $32/month
  • Available in 67 counties
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Aetna stands out in Pennsylvania for having a range of plan options with cheap overall prices and good customer satisfaction. Aetna plans are available across the entire state.

Many Aetna plans include dental coverage, a fitness benefit, prescription delivery and an over-the-counter program that provides select pharmacy items at no cost. Some Aetna plans include limited non-emergency transportation benefits.

Aetna's Medicare Advantra Value HMO will save you money on insurance costs if you don't mind working within a provider network and getting referrals for specialist care. The plan has a $0 premium, $0 medical and drug deductible, and $7,550 out-of-pocket maximum. You pay nothing for a visit to your primary care doctor and $45 each time you see a specialist.

With the Aetna Medicare Value PPO, you're not restricted to network providers and do not need referrals for specialist visits. There's no monthly premium, no drug deductible and no in-network medical deductible, but you'll pay a $1,000 deductible for out-of-network care. In-network primary doctor visits are $10 and specialist visits are $50. When you use healthcare providers outside the network, you'll pay 40% of the cost. Your annual out-of-pocket maximum for this plan is $7,550 if you use network providers for your health care, and jumps to $11,300 for out-of-network services.

If you stay within Aetna's provider network, these HMO and PPO plans have similar costs. To avoid potential added expenses, we recommend buying the HMO and using network providers. But if you want the freedom to see providers of your choice, just know that your costs will be higher. Under the PPO you'll pay the first $1,000 per year for out-of-network care, and $3,750 more per year toward your out-of-pocket maximum. The 40% coinsurance for out-of-network medical care will add up, too, as it's more expensive than paying a flat copay.

Aetna's nationwide provider networks include more than 700,000 primary care doctors and specialists and over 5,700 hospitals. Pennsylvania residents are likely to find their selected health care providers in the Aetna network, but it's a good idea to check the provider listing before you commit to a plan.

Read more: Aetna review


Top-ranking Medicare Advantage plans in Pennsylvania

UPMC for Life and Highmark offer the highest-rated Medicare Advantage plans in Pennsylvania.

UPMC for Life

  • CMS rating:

  • Average cost: $70/month
  • Available in 54 counties
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UPMC is a Pittsburgh-based plan that is available in much of Pennsylvania. The most widely available UPMC plan that includes drug coverage is UPMC for Life HMO Premier Rx. This plan is good for those on a budget as there's no premium and no medical or drug deductible, and primary care visits are also free. You'll pay $40 for each specialist visit.

The UPMC for Life PPO Flex Rx plan has the flexibility you expect with a PPO — you can go to providers of your choice and don't need a referral to see a specialist. The plan has no deductible for in-network care. You'll pay nothing to see your in-network primary care doctor and $35 for an in-network specialist visit. Your annual out-of-pocket maximum is $7,550 for in-network care.

Although the Flex PPO allows for out-of-network care, the cost may outweigh the benefit. You pay an annual deductible of $400 for out-of-network care. After meeting the deductible, you pay 30% for every primary care or specialist visit, rather than a flat copay. Your annual out-of-pocket maximum also jumps to $11,300 when you use providers outside the plan network.

Though there is no monthly premium for the Flex PPO, the other out-of-pocket costs add up. If you want a PPO and have the choice between UnitedHealthcare and UPMC, UnitedHealthcare will be a better option.

In reviewing UPMC plans in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area, we found traditional member extras like vision, dental, hearing and fitness coverage. But no UPMC plan in Harrisburg pays toward the cost of transportation for routine healthcare, like a ride to your doctor's office for a checkup. If you need transportation coverage, you're better off with a UnitedHealthcare or Aetna plan.

UPMC offers 12 Medicare Advantage plans in 54 Pennsylvania counties. In 2022, the company added several new plans, including an option for veterans who already have drug benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) called the UPMC for Life HMO Salute plan. Another recent addition is a customizable policy that allows members to choose enhanced coverage on one of three benefits: dental, vision or over-the-counter health care products.

Highmark

  • CMS rating:

  • Average cost: $102/month
  • Available in 62 counties
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Highmark has a 5-star CMS rating for customer satisfaction and a good range of HMO and PPO options available in Pennsylvania. With 18 plans to choose from, Highmark has one of the largest plan selections in the state. But overall, Highmark plans are not the option for those on a healthcare budget. Highmark plans have the highest average rates in Pennsylvania, along with the highest out-of-pocket maximums — $7,550 — allowed by Medicare.

Most Medicare enrollees in Pennsylvania have access to the Community Blue Medicare HMO Signature and the Community Blue Medicare PPO Signature plans. Both options have no monthly premium, no medical or drug deductible and a $7,550 out-of-pocket maximum, which is higher than most competitors' plans. ?

The Community Blue Medicare HMO allows you to see both your primary care doctor and a specialist at no cost — a benefit not many Medicare Advantage plans provide. But if member extras are important to you, the Community Blue HMO is not a good choice as it doesn't offer vision, dental or fitness benefits.

The Community Blue Medicare PPO offers free primary doctor visits; specialist visits at $30; and extra benefits like vision, dental, hearing and fitness coverage.

Highmark, headquartered in Pittsburgh, is native to Pennsylvania and is the largest health insurer in the state. The company is part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) and has an extensive Medicare Advantage provider network in Pennsylvania. Of the four BCBSA-affiliated Medicare Advantage plans in Pennsylvania, Highmark stands out for its cost, customer satisfaction and availability. But while plans are sold in all but five Pennsylvania counties, you can't get Highmark Medicare Advantage coverage in cities like Downingtown, Norristown or Chester.

Read more: Highmark Medicare Review


How do I choose a Medicare plan?

When choosing a Medicare plan, it's best to have a list of questions ready to guide your research. You first need to decide between Original Medicare and a Medicare Advantage plan, then narrow your options from there.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when searching for your plan:

  • Do you need drug coverage?
  • Are your health care providers in the plan's network?
  • Do you need the freedom to work with any health care provider, in or out of network?
  • Do you have a chronic illness or a condition that needs intensive or long-term treatment?
  • What is your budget for health care costs, including monthly payments and out-of-pocket charges?
  • Are past or present members happy with the plan you're considering?

You'll have the chance to choose a Medicare plan when you first become eligible for Medicare and again each year during open enrollment. With the number of options available, it's a good idea to start your search early.

How many people are on Medicare in Pennsylvania?

Medicare-eligible residents in Pennsylvania: 2,817,192

Medicare Advantage enrollees in Pennsylvania: 1,369,175

Number of Medicare Advantage providers operating in Pennsylvania: 14

Average monthly cost of Medicare Advantage in Pennsylvania: $40

Medicare Advantage enrollment varies by county. In Pike County, for example, 22% of Medicare recipients are on Medicare Advantage plans, while in Armstrong County, the rate is 67%.

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Frequently asked questions

Does Pennsylvania have Medicare Advantage?

Yes, Medicare Advantage plans are available throughout Pennsylvania and cost an average of $40 per month. At least one free Medicare Advantage plan is offered in each Pennsylvania county.

What are the top-rated Medicare Advantage plans in Pennsylvania?

Highmark and UPMC for Life are the two top-rated Pennsylvania Medicare Advantage plans. Each plan received a customer service score of 5, the highest rating awarded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Is Medicare Advantage sold everywhere in Pennsylvania?

Yes, Medicare Advantage plans are sold in each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. Some companies offer plans in only three counties, where others (for example, Aetna and Humana) sell policies across the entire state.

How can I get help with choosing a Medicare Advantage plan in Pennsylvania?

For help choosing a Medicare plan or for other Medicare-related questions, you can contact the Pennsylvania State Health Insurance Program (SHIP). SHIP provides one-on-one insurance counseling and assistance with Medicare.

Methodology and sources

Our analysis of Medicare Advantage plans in Pennsylvania excludes plans that do not provide prescription drug coverage, employer group plans and Special Needs Plans (SNPs).

Medicare plan data is sourced from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) public use files and from Medicare.gov. We compared 2022 plans based on cost, coverage, quality and availability. When calculating insurer rate averages, we combined affiliated companies in the state.

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.