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If you don’t yet qualify for Medicare, check out our review of the best health insurance companies. If you do, read on.
Medicare is health insurance for people aged 65 or older, or with certain disabilities or end-stage renal disease. It’s made up of Parts A, B, C, and D, plus several Medicare supplement plans. Here, we’ll be looking at Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) for those who opt out of Original Medicare (Parts A and B), as well as Part D prescription drug plans and Medicare supplements for those who keep Original Medicare.
We rated each company’s plans based on their features, their structure (HMO, PPO, etc.), the value they provide for the overall cost, customer satisfaction, plan quality, and whether additional drug coverage is offered in the Medicare donut hole.
Best Health Insurance for Retirees of 2023
- Best Overall: UnitedHealthcare
- Runner Up, Best Medicare Advantage Plans: Aetna
- Most Medicare Supplement Plans: Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Great Part D Plans: Cigna
- Best Medicare Supplement Plan G: Mutual of Omaha
- Best Customer Satisfaction: Kaiser Permanente
- Cheapest Medicare Advantage Plans in Florida: Bright Health
Best Overall : UnitedHealthcare
Medicare Advantage, Part D, and Medicare supplement plans available
Many plans have high Medicare star ratings
Many plans have relatively high NCQA star ratings
Only one other national insurer offers more plans with additional drug coverage in the gap
Ranked just below average for customer satisfaction
UnitedHealthcare offers highly rated Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, Part D prescription drug plans, and Medicare supplement (Medigap) policies. The company’s Medicare Advantage plans received an average Medicare star rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars. The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) gave UHC plans an average 3.9 star rating, which is the second-highest NCQA star rating of all providers we reviewed. The only blemish to its ratings is that UHC came in just below average—fourth out of nine providers—in the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Medicare Advantage Study.
UHC’s plans are packed with benefits. Many Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans offer additional drug coverage in the Medicare donut hole or coverage gap. And annual in-home care visits are available at no additional cost to plan members. The company is also the largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans nationwide.
UHC’s Medicare supplement Plan G is priced very well, and its Medicare Advantage pricing is reasonable. Average premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums for 2023 MA plans are just below industry averages.
Overall, if you are looking for a highly rated Medicare Advantage plan, a Part D plan, or a Medigap plan, and aren’t looking for the absolute cheapest plan available, United Healthcare is a very good option.
Learn more in our UnitedHealthcare Medicare review.
Runner Up, Best Medicare Advantage Plans : Aetna
Ultra-low-cost Part D plans available
Low premiums and deductibles on 2023 Medicare Advantage plans
The most MA plans with additional drug coverage in the coverage gap
Relatively high Medicare star ratings
A (Excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best
Deductibles run high on 2023 Medicare Advantage plans
Below average for customer satisfaction
Aetna was our runner-up for the Best Medicare Advantage Plans for a wide variety of reasons. The company’s Part D plans and Medicare Advantage plans offer good value, are well-rated, and offer a wide range of benefits. Aetna’s SilverScript SmartRx plan is a very low-cost prescription drug plan, with an average monthly premium of only $5.92 for 2023. Premiums and deductibles on its MA plans are well below industry averages for 2023 as well. And most MA plans include additional drug coverage in the Medicare donut hole.
But there are two reasons why Aetna isn’t our top pick for retirees. Aetna ranked 6th out of nine companies in the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Medicare Advantage Study, which indicates issues with customer satisfaction. Plus, the average out-of-pocket maximum on its Medicare Advantage plans is $5,685.48, which is about $300 higher than the average among major insurers.
Learn more in our Aetna Medicare review.
Most Medicare Supplement Plans : Blue Cross Blue Shield
Wide range of Medicare supplement plans
Highly rated Medicare Advantage and Part D plans
Nearly nationwide coverage
Medicare Advantage premiums run high
Deductibles for Medicare Advantage plans run high
On average, BCBS Medicare Advantage and Part D plans have the highest Medicare star ratings of national providers. Plus, the company offers all types of Medicare supplement plans to suit a variety of needs, including Plans A, B, C, D, F, high deductible F, G, high deductible G, K, L, M, and N.
BCBS offers Medicare plans nearly nationwide, but the company is actually made up of 34 independent BCBS organizations which administer their own plans. This means plans can differ substantially between areas. And the company’s MA plans tend to be more costly than the competition: Both premiums and deductibles are relatively high. That said, out-of-pocket costs are capped at $5,188.70 annually, which is about $200 lower than average.
Learn more in our Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare review.
Great Part D Plans : Cigna
Medicare Advantage premiums are the lowest of all major providers
Medicare Advantage, Part D, and Medigap plans available
$0 copays and $0 deductibles for many generics on Part D plans
Live web chat
Most Medicare Advantage plans don’t offer additional coverage in the gap
Poor rankings for customer satisfaction
Many plans have low NCQA star ratings
Cigna’s Medicare Advantage plans have the lowest average premium of all major providers. For 2023, Cigna’s average premium across Medicare Advantage plans is $5.23 per month. Plans have decent Medicare star ratings (4.1 stars, on average), but were ranked poorly by J.D. Power for customer satisfaction (eighth out of nine providers) and poorly by the NCQA (3.1 stars, on average). Very few of its MA plans provide additional drug coverage in the Medicare coverage gap.
But Cigna’s Medicare Part D plans have a few advantages, including low out-of-pocket maximums, $0 premiums, and $0 deductibles on some plans. The company also has extensive options for managing your policy and getting in touch with customer service.
If you are looking for a low-cost plan and aren’t too picky about customer service, Cigna is worth looking into.
Learn more in our Cigna Medicare review.
Best Medicare Supplement Plan G : Mutual of Omaha
High-deductible Plan G available
Very good pricing on standard Medigap Plan G
Wide range of Medigap plans available
No Medicare Advantage plans
No prescription drug coverage
Medigap Plan G covers most of the out-of-pocket costs that Original Medicare does not pay for with one exception: your Medicare Plan B deductible. It offers the closest available coverage to what was Plan F, which is only available if you were eligible for Medicare before 2020. Mutual of Omaha offers both standard Plan G and a high-deductible version, with very good pricing on the former per our review of Medigap quotes.
Mutual of Omaha offers Part D prescription drug plans and a wide range of Medigap plans (10 overall) that are available across most of the country.
However, Mutual of Omaha does not offer Medicare Advantage, so is best for those who need to supplement their Original Medicare coverage.
Best Customer Satisfaction : Kaiser Permanente
Top-ranked for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power
5-star Medicare star ratings
Highly rated by the NCQA
Very low drug deductibles
Only offers Medicare Advantage plans
Relatively high premiums
Kaiser Permanente’s Medicare Advantage plans rank very highly for customer satisfaction and quality. Both the CMS and NCQA confer their highest star ratings on Kaiser’s MA plans, and the company took the top spot in the 2022 J.D. Power Medicare Advantage Study.
Kaiser’s plans are limited, however, in both scope and geographical availability. The company covers just eight states (California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington), plus the District of Columbia. It only offers Medicare Advantage plans, not Part D or Medigap, and HMOs are the most common plan type.
Kaiser plans, generally, have very low drug deductibles, but relatively high premiums. But if you are looking for a Medicare Advantage plan with great customer satisfaction ratings, live in an area covered by Kaiser, and prefer an HMO, these plans are worth considering.
Learn more in our Kaiser Permanente review.
Cheapest Medicare Advantage Plans in Florida : Bright Health
Cheapest Florida Medicare Advantage plans
HMO and PPO plans available
Medicare Advantage plans only in Florida and California
Relatively poor Medicare and NCQA ratings
Does not offer Part D or Medigap
Bright Health is one of the newest Medicare Part C providers, having been founded in 2016. The company’s Medicare Advantage plans are sold in just two states in 2023 (California and Florida), but they’re some of the cheapest available in Florida. Premiums in the Sunshine State start at just $0 for plans with $0 drug deductibles and $0 copays on generics in the gap coverage phase.
If you are on a budget, and live in one of the states covered by Bright Health’s Medicare Advantage plans, they could be a good low-cost option for you.
Our top pick for the best health insurance provider for retirees in 2022 is United Healthcare. The company offers highly rated, feature-rich healthcare plans that are reasonably priced.
Depending on your needs, you might also consider some of our other recommendations. Aetna offers high-value Medicare Advantage plans, and is a close runner-up. If you need a standalone Medicare Part D plan or Medicare supplement, consider Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Mutual of Omaha. If you’re in Florida and on a budget, check out Bright Health. Or, if it’s customer satisfaction that matters most, go with Kaiser Permanente.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Medicare?
Medicare is a U.S. government health insurance program. Medicare plans cover people aged 65 or older, people with some disabilities, and people with end-stage renal disease. Medicare is made up of several different parts: Part A (hospital insurance), Part B (medical insurance), Part C (Medicare Advantage), and Part D (prescription drug coverage).
At What Age Are You Eligible for Medicare?
Once you reach 65, you are generally eligible for Medicare. Some people become eligible for Medicare earlier. You may be eligible if you’ve received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for 24 months, regardless of your age, or if you have certain disabilities, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), or permanent kidney failure.
What Is the Highest Rated Medicare Advantage Plan?
The best Medicare Advantage plans are highly rated by the CMS and NCQA, include extra benefits, have low out-of-pocket costs, provide additional drug coverage in the Medicare donut hole, and have excellent customer service. UnitedHealthcare’s AARP Medicare Advantage plans were named the best Medicare Advantage plans of 2023.
What Is the Part D Penalty?
If you don’t sign up for Medicare Part D when you’re first eligible and choose to sign up later, you may incur a penalty if you go for 63 or more days without creditable prescription drug coverage. Your first opportunity to enroll is during the seven-month window around your 65th birthday (three months before your birthday month until three months after). The penalty lasts for as long as you have Part D and is permanently added to your Part D premium. The cost depends on how long you went without it. The penalty is calculated as 1% of the "national base beneficiary premium" ($32.74 in 2023) multiplied by the number of months you didn't have Part D coverage.
We started by identifying top companies within the industry offering Medicare plans using longitudinal datasets from various business and market insight databases including Statistia, Plunkett, and Gale. We also considered monthly search volume and Google trends data for Medicare-related queries to determine which states have the highest interest in Medicare plans.
Data Collection and Verification
Our data was collected through third-party rating agencies, official government websites and databases, and directly from companies via websites, media contacts, and existing partnerships. Our sources include: AM Best, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), J.D. Power, and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS).
We calculated star ratings for the quality of each company’s different plan types. Factors considered for companies offering Medicare plans were:
- Plan quality and customer satisfaction (30%): The CMS and NCQA independently rate the quality of Medicare plans on a five-star scale to help people compare plans during open enrollment.
- Cost to value (20%): We compared premiums, deductibles, maximum out-of-pocket amounts, whether additional drug coverage is offered in the Medicare gap, and star ratings to determine which plans offer the best value for your money.
- Additional coverage offered in the Medicare gap (15%): The coverage gap or "donut hole" refers to a period when there is a limit on drug coverage. It begins once the plan and member spend $4,430 on covered drugs. During this time, members are responsible for up to 25% of brand name and generic drugs. Some plans offer additional coverage in the gap. The gap ends once the member spends $7,050 OOP on covered drugs.
- State availability (15%): We considered which states offer different types of Medicare plans.
- Plan benefits (10%): We considered whether plans offer coverage for vision, dental, hearing, non-emergency transportation, worldwide emergencies, gym memberships, and telehealth.
- Types of plans available (5%): Companies offering plans that don’t require you to stay strictly in-network received a bump in scoring.
- Special needs plans (5%): This is a measure of whether the company offers plans designed for those with specific diseases.