Which are the best health insurance companies in the United States? It's hard to know how to even begin sorting through your multiple options when your employer offers a choice of health plans or you need to select a private or Medicare health insurance policy.
We've done some of the legwork for you by examining which of the more than 900 companies that sell health insurance in the U.S. are ranked highest by objective criteria for such factors as prevention, treatment, and customer satisfaction. We selected six recommended insurance companies that have a wide range of widely available products, along with a few highly-rated regional companies.
To find the best policies for you and your family, you can start by entering your zip code and then other information at the companies' websites. That will direct you to policies available in your area and for your circumstances, at which point you can compare local physician, hospital, and pharmacy choices. You can also find the combination of premium price, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses that is the best option for you.
Best Health Insurance Companies
- Aetna: Best for Medicare Advantage
- Blue Cross/Blue Shield: Best for Nationwide Coverage
- Cigna Health Insurance: Best for Global Coverage
- Humana: Best for 360 Degree (Wrap-around) Coverage
- Kaiser Foundation Health Plans: Best for HMOs
- United Healthcare Services Inc.: Best for the Tech Forward
How We Chose the Best Companies
We examined the 126 health insurance plans that were top-rated by NCQA, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a nonprofit rating group, and aggregated them by insurance company. We then narrowed the list to companies that had highly-rated plans available in multiple states. To make the best list, the company also had to have at least an A- financial rating by AM Best, Fitch, or Standard & Poors.
We then took a qualitative look at our nine highly-rated companies to identify special strengths that might appeal to the priorities of different types of consumers. We examined how the companies rated in NCQA subcategories, in the ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) survey of roughly 300,000 consumers, and in the J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey of 28,809 commercial health plan members. We looked at company profiles and Top Ten Reviews to evaluate the depth and breadth of the company's coverage offerings and pricing for individual and employer-based insurance, Medicare Advantage, and other types of policies.
Best for Medicare Advantage – Aetna
An impressive 43 Aetna Medicare Advantage plans sold in 37 states, plus the District of Columbia, received top NCQA ratings, with Connecticut and Maine being standouts. For 2020, Aetna Medicare Advantage is available in 264 new counties across the country, providing millions more Medicare beneficiaries access to an Aetna plan. The insurer also sells Medicare Supplemental and Prescription Drug Plans in 48 states and D.C. as well as a combination dental, vision, and hearing product supplemental Medicare insurance in most states.
In the private arena, Aetna is a large provider of employer-based health insurance, and four Aetna plans serving four states made the top NCQA ranks. The company no longer sells individual insurance on healthcare.gov. Aetna plans in Utah and Pennsylvania were top scorers in NCQA, and Aetna was rated a J.D. Power regional "best for consumer satisfaction" in Delaware, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and D.C. In addition, Aetna's pricing seems to be at a lower level than many competitors.
Aetna recently became part of CVS Health Company and synergies between the two are beginning to emerge. For example, Aetna medical plan subscribers with high blood pressure can get a free home monitor at CVS. Chronic disease monitoring may also be available at CVS stores.
Best for Nationwide Coverage – Blue Cross/Blue Shield
One out of three Americans have health coverage from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The names on various state plans include Anthem, Independence, Hawaii Medical Service, Highmark, and Wellmark, but all of the 36 independent and locally operated Blue Cross Blue Shield companies open doors in all 50 states. Nationwide, more than 96% of hospitals and 95% of doctors and specialists contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield companies—more than any other insurer.
Thirty-one Blue Cross Blue Shield companies were highly rated by NAQA and 14 received good financial ratings, although quite a few were not rated in this area. Ten Anthem Plans—including some with lower overall ratings—scored impressively in the customer satisfaction area. Eleven of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Medicare Advantage Plans were highly rated. The Blues offer employer insurance, individual policies on healthcare.gov, and a variety of Medicare plans (Medigap, Prescription Drugs Part D, and Medicare Advantage).
Best for Global Coverage – Cigna Health Insurance
It's not surprising that a company that sells a product called Expatriates Insurance would lead our list for international coverage. This global health service company has 95 million customers served by a global network of 1.5 million healthcare professionals and access to doctors in 200+ countries. Its more-than-40,000 employees provide services in 170+ languages, and the company says it insures over three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies. It recently merged with Express Scripts.
In the U.S., four private Cigna plans were top-rated in NCQA. Cigna is the top performer in customer satisfaction in New Jersey and East South Central region according to the J.D. Power survey. Cigna also has the lowest complaint rate in the industry, according to ACIS. Cigna sells medical plans in 12 states and dental plans in all 50, plus D.C. It sells individual plans on healthcare.gov and this year has entered 19 new markets. Cigna is also expanding its Medicare Advantage plans to 80 counties across 17 states.
Best for Umbrella Coverage – Humana
Health insurance policies don't usually cover such expenses as eyeglasses and contacts; dental exams, crowns, and appliances; or prescription drugs. Humana, a broad-based health and well-being company, sells private policies in all these areas, and the company has a range of plans for people living with chronic conditions that include transitions from a hospital stay to home care and meal delivery. It no longer offers health insurance on healthcare.gov. Humana is also among the companies that offer special needs policies for people with a severe or disabling chronic condition or living in an institution.
Four private Humana plans (Kansas/Missouri, Wisconsin, two in Illinois) and three Humana Medicare Advantage Plans (Florida, Illinois, Tennessee) were highly-rated by NCQA. Humana led the pack for customer satisfaction in 2019, according to recently released data from the ACSI survey, and consumers rated it highest for providing good access to primary and specialty care. Humana's policies for HMOs are relatively affordable.
Best for HMOs – Kaiser Foundation Health Plans
The nonprofit insurer won stellar ratings for private insurance, with one plan (Mid-Atlantic States) getting a top overall NCQA score of 5.0 and eight other plans, ranging from Georgia to California, winning 4.0 to 4.5 ratings. In the Medicare Advantage arena, Kaiser was also a winner with eight plans in the very top echelons. The company operates in eight states (California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington) and Washington, D.C.
All of Kaiser's highly rated private and Medicare Advantage plans are HMOs. This is good news for those needing budget health insurance because HMO premiums are generally lower, there is often no deductible, and copays and prescription drug costs may also be lower. The rub in an HMO is the restriction that—except in emergencies—you must use only doctors, hospitals, and other services that are in the network. The plans do, however, deliver the essential goods. They score quite high on the percent of patients receiving screenings, immunizations, and other preventive services and on the treatment of chronic and acute health conditions. Kaiser's policies have relatively low premiums.
Best for the Tech Savvy – United Healthcare Services Inc.
Want to track your health on an Apple Watch? File claims, set up doctor appointments, and find doctors online? United Healthcare's latest annual survey found that almost 40% of consumers shop for healthcare on a computer or with mobile apps. The company is pushing "consumer-driven digital health care," including wearable technology for glucose management, smart baby monitors for high-risk infants, and activity trackers that allow fitness participants to win monetary awards.
Two private United plans (both in Rhode Island) scored an impressive 4.5. Thirteen plans in six states (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Wisconsin) scored 4.0 in overall NCQA ratings. Thirty-four of United's Medicare Advantage plans were highly rated, including many sold under the name Sierra Health and Life Insurance Company.
United offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 1.3 million physicians and care professionals as well as 6,500 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. Both HMO and PPO plans are available with access to healthcare savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA). Its polices may cost a bit more than some of its competitors, but it may be worth it for the extra features.
Best Regional Health Insurance Companies
- Midwest: HealthPartners
- New England: Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
- New York: Capital District Physicians' Health Plan (CDPHP, CDPHN)
These smaller insurance companies have some very high-scoring health plans available in selected areas. Health Partners has a high financial rating, but Harvard Pilgrim and CDPHP/CDPHN are not rated by the major financial agencies.
Midwest – HealthPartners
Under the names of Group Health Plan and HealthPartners, this company sells Medicare plans in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. All three of its private plans garnered 4.5 overall scores. All three plans also scored very well in prevention and treatment.
New England – Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
This New England not-for-profit company has two 4.5 rated plans (Maine, Massachusetts), one of which also scored an impressive 4.5 on prevention, and one 4.0 (New Hampshire) plan. The Harvard Pilgrim Choice Plus and Options PPO plans are offered jointly by Harvard Pilgrim and UnitedHealthcare, allowing members access to a network of half a million doctors nationwide, thousands of hospitals, and flexible health benefits.
New York – Capital District Physicians' Health Plan (CDPHP, CDPHN)
This not-for-profit, physician-directed health plan has some of the highest rated plans. Two plans garnered a 5.0 in overall score from NCQA, and were among the five private plans nationally that scored 5.0 in consumer satisfaction. A third plan from this company came in near the top at 4.5. And the company's Medicare Advantage plan was also a high scorer. The plans are available in 24 of New York's 68 counties. The company notes that eight out of its 15 board members are practicing physicians.