Best Health Insurance for Retirees

UnitedHealthcare offers the most comprehensive coverage options

We publish unbiased product reviews; our opinions are our own and are not influenced by payment we receive from our advertising partners. Learn more about how we review products and read our advertiser disclosure for how we make money.

Your health insurance needs are different in retirement than they are during your working career. While many people plan to use Medicare during retirement, Medicare is generally only available for those who are 65 and older, or those who meet certain other eligibility criteria. If you retire before you’re eligible for Medicare, you’ll have to find an alternative source of coverage. Maintaining health insurance when you retire is essential for your financial security since healthcare costs can increase as you age.

The best health insurance for retirees provides a good mix of low costs and comprehensive coverage options for all of your health needs. These insurance plans should also be geared toward seniors and work with common provider networks. Even after you become eligible for medicare, you may choose to purchase additional coverage to help supplement out of pocket costs.

Best Health Insurance for Retirees of 2021

Best Overall : UnitedHealthcare


UnitedHealthcare

 UnitedHealthcare

  • No. Policy Types: 4
  • Providers in Network: 1,300,000
  • No. States Available: 34
Why We Chose It

UnitedHealthcare is one of the leading providers of Medicare Advantage plans, and covers 100% of immunizations and preventative services.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • You have coverage when traveling outside the country

  • Additional services are covered

  • Immunizations and preventative services are 100% covered

Cons
  • Only available to those eligible for Medicare

  • Additional premium may be required

  • There may be location limitations

Overview

While Medicare is a valuable insurance option, it has limitations. It doesn’t include prescription drug coverage, medical care received outside of the United States, or dental or vision care. If you want those services covered, you can opt for a Medicare Advantage Plan, also known as Medicare Part C. 

UnitedHealthcare is the largest provider of Medicare Advantage Plans, with 26% of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries enrolled in the company’s plans. It also has an A (Excellent) rating from AM Best. 

UnitedHealthcare offers both HMO and PPO plans, so you can choose a provider network that meets your needs. With a Medicare Advantage Plan from the company, you get coverage when traveling outside of the United States, and immunizations and preventative care is completely covered at no additional cost. Depending on your location and the policy you choose, UnitedHealthcare plans may cover the following services: 

  • Hearing aids
  • Vision care
  • Dental care
  • Chiropractic visits
  • Fitness club memberships
  • Caregiver resources
  • Medical transportation
  • Meals

Medicare Advantage Plans are only available to individuals who qualify for Medicare. You may have to pay an additional premium for your plan depending on the policy and deductible you choose. Some Medicare Advantage Plans have regional restrictions, so double-check your policy if you spend months out of the year in a different location, such as spending the winter in the southern states. 

If you are eligible for Medicare, enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Plan from UnitedHealthcare is a good way to ensure you have a complete health insurance plan that goes beyond Original Medicare’s covered services. It’s our pick for the best overall provider because of its robust coverage options, expansive provider networks, and extra covered services.

Best for Supplementing Medicare : Humana


Humana

 Humana

  • No. Policy Types: 9
  • Providers in Network: Unavailable
  • No. States Available: 47
Why We Chose It

Humana offers excellent Medigap coverage with a user-friendly website and multiple plan options to choose from.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Multiple plans to choose from

  • You can choose any healthcare provider

  • Majority of your Medicare costs covered

Cons
  • Does not include prescription drug coverage

  • Monthly premiums can be high

  • Not available in all locations

Overview

If you’re 65 or older, you may not think that you need additional coverage since you qualify for Medicare. However, Medicare isn’t free healthcare. In fact, a 65-year-old couple that retired in 2019 can expect to pay $285,000 in healthcare and medical expenses during their retirement. 

A Medigap policy can help cover your health costs, such as your Medicare deductibles, coinsurance, or copayments. 

Humana is one of the top Medigap providers, offering a user-friendly website that allows you to easily search through the company’s Medigap plans. With a Humana Medigap policy, you can see any healthcare provider you wish that accepts Medicare, without having to worry about networks. Depending on which plan you choose, the majority of your Medicare costs may be covered. Humana has an A- (Excellent) rating from AM Best. 

However, Medigap policies don’t include prescription drug coverage, and your monthly premium may be expensive.

Humana is not licensed to offer Medigap policies in all states, so check to see if plans are available where you live.

Humana is our choice as the best Medigap provider for its customizable coverage options and the ability to keep the healthcare providers you trust.

Best for Low-Income Seniors : Medicaid


Medicaid

 Medicaid

  • No. Policy Types: Varies by state
  • Providers in Network: Unavailable
  • No. States Available: 50
Why We Chose It

Medicaid provides free and low-cost coverage to low-income seniors, with premiums as low as $0 depending on your income.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Low or $0 premiums for low-income seniors

  • Covers services that Medicare doesn’t

  • Provides a financial safeguard

Cons
  • Income restrictions apply

  • Some states have cost-sharing programs

  • You may not qualify if you’re under 65

Overview

Medicaid is a federal program for low-income individuals and people with disabilities. It provides coverage to 7.2 million seniors who are also enrolled in Medicare. 

Through Medicaid, eligible beneficiaries can get financial assistance with their Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses. It also covers services that Medicare doesn’t, such as prescription medications, eyeglasses, and hearing aids. If you have a medical emergency, such as a serious illness, Medicaid provides an essential safeguard. 

However, not everyone qualifies for Medicaid. To be eligible, you must meet your state’s income restrictions. Typically, you have to make no more than 200% of the federal poverty level plus an additional $20 to qualify for Medicaid assistance. 

Some states will insure adults who are not yet eligible for Medicare through Medicaid, but not all do. If you live in a state that hasn’t expanded its Medicare coverage, you may not qualify for assistance until you reach 65. 

For low-income individuals, Medicaid is our top choice for health insurance. You can get comprehensive coverage and may pay as little as $0 per month.

Best Short-Term Coverage : Golden Rule Insurance Company


Medicaid

 Medicaid

  • No. Policy Types: 12
  • Providers in Network: 1,300,000
  • No. States Available: 40
Why We Chose It

Golden Rule Insurance Company offers excellent short-term coverage for retirees who don’t yet qualify for Medicare.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Low monthly premiums

  • Coverage can start as quickly as the next day

  • You can enroll at any time

Cons
  • You can be denied for pre-existing conditions

  • Coverage may not cover some necessary services

  • Short-term coverage may not satisfy state-level requirements

Overview

If you retire before you turn 65, short-term insurance can give you some protection until you’re eligible for Medicare

The Golden Rule Insurance Company is backed by UnitedHealthcare, which has an A rating from AM Best and specializes in short-term insurance policies. With a short-term policy from the company, you can get health insurance to protect against emergencies at a cost that is significantly cheaper than private insurance. 

Golden Rule Insurance Company has plans available for as little as $38 per month. Also, you don’t have to wait for your coverage to begin; your coverage can start as soon as the day after you purchase your policy. You can enroll in a short-term plan at any time, without having to wait for an annual Open Enrollment period or qualifying for Special Enrollment. 

However, the Golden Rule Insurance Company can deny you for pre-existing conditions, and short-term plans don’t have to cover all of the same benefits that private insurance does. While there is no longer a federal mandate for minimum essential coverage, some states still have mandates. Short-term plans don’t typically satisfy the minimum essential coverage requirement, so you may owe a penalty when you pay your state taxes. 

If you have one to three years until you’re eligible for Medicare, purchasing a short-term insurance plan from the Golden Rule Insurance Company can give you coverage during times of transition. 

It’s the top choice for short-term insurance because it’s backed by UnitedHealthcare, one of the largest and most reliable insurance companies in the country. And, plans are affordable, costing significantly less than other insurance plans for retirees.

Best for Under 65 : Cigna


Cigna

 Cigna

  • No. Policy Types: 5
  • Providers in Network: 1,500,000
  • No. States Available: 10
Why We Chose It

If you retire before you turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare, Cigna offers affordable policies through the Health Insurance Marketplace, with free virtual care and financial assistance programs available.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Financial assistance programs available

  • No referrals needed for specialists

  • $0 virtual visits with doctors

Cons
  • Not everyone will qualify for subsidized premiums

  • Does not offer plans in all states

  • International coverage must be purchased separately

Overview

Cigna is one of the largest insurance companies on the Health Insurance Marketplace, with over $32 billion in premiums written in 2019. When comparing plans on the Health Insurance Marketplace, Cigna stands out from its competitors with its extra perks and benefits. 

Cigna members get $0 virtual care, where you can connect with a doctor via phone or video chat with no additional out-of-pocket cost. Regardless of what type of provider you choose, you don’t need referrals to see a specialist, but your primary care physician can recommend a specialist to you that is within the network to help you save money. If you’re diabetic, you’ll pay no more than $25 out-of-pocket for a 30-day supply of covered insulin. And, Cigna’s diabetes care plans offer additional benefits with $0 out-of-pocket costs. 

Cigna also offers separate international coverage. If you frequently travel outside of the country, you can purchase international insurance to make sure you’re covered. 

Cigna also has a financial assistance program. According to the company, three out of four customers receive help with their plans, and nearly half of those customers pay less than $100 per monthInformation about financial assistance options available to their customers is also available from Cigna. However, not everyone will qualify for subsidized premiums, so you may be responsible for the full cost yourself.

While Cigna’s group and dental plans are available throughout the country, full coverage plans purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace are not available in all states. For 2021, Cigna is only available in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. 

Cigna is the best choice for people under the age of 65 because of its comprehensive coverage options for people with pre-existing conditions. As a retiree, you can enjoy added benefits as a Cigna customer, and can even qualify for cost-saving programs.

Final Verdict

There are several options when it comes to health insurance for retirees. While most retirees over 65 are eligible for Medicare, those who retire before 65 will often need to find private health insurance coverage. Even after 65, some retirees may choose to supplement Medicare with additional coverage. Overall, the best choice for health insurance for retirees and seniors is UnitedHealthcare.

UnitedHealthcare has comprehensive coverage options and over 1,300,000 providers in-network. They also offer additional plans for things like vision, dental, and chiropractic care. UnitedHealthcare is one of the leading providers of Medicare Advantage Plans, also known as Medicare Part C.

Compare The Best Health Insurance for Retirees

Company  Plans (#) Policy Management (Mobile app, website, phone, etc) Providers In-Network Waiting Period
UnitedHealthcare
Best Overall
4 App, website, phone 1,300,000 Varies
Humana
Best for Supplementing Medicare 
App, website, phone  Unavailable Varies 
Medicaid
Best for Low-Income Seniors
Varies  Varies by state Unavailable  Varies 
Golden Rule Insurance Company
Best Short-Term Coverage
12 App, website, phone  1,300,000  Varies 
Cigna
Best for Under 65
App, website, phone  1,500,000  Varies 

Health Insurance Guide for Retirees

Explore Medicare Options

While retirees 65 and older qualify for Medicare, there are several different types to choose from. Original Medicare includes Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), which has no premium, and Medicare Part B (medical insurance), which has an average monthly premium of $148.50 per month.

Retirees may also opt to go with a Medicare Advantage Plan, otherwise known as Medicare Part C. With an average monthly premium of $25, Medicare Advantage covers services that aren’t included in Medicare Part A or B, such as dental care, long-term care, or prescription drugs.

Compare Health Insurance Plans for Retirees

If you’re looking for health insurance coverage as a retiree, it’s good to take advantage of any government programs you qualify for and shop around to ensure that you have the coverage you need. For example, even if you qualify for Medicare, you may need to purchase supplemental plans for services that are not covered, like dental work.

When evaluating different plans, there are a few different factors that you should consider. You should make sure that the insurance company has in-network providers in your area, and that they offer a plan that meets your specific health needs. You should also compare policy premiums and deductibles, waiting periods, and customer satisfaction.

Take Advantage of Open Enrollment

If you choose to purchase health insurance coverage through the marketplace, you may have to wait to do so until the open enrollment period. Open enrollment usually begins in November and lasts through the middle of December each year. You may be able to sign up for a plan outside of the open enrollment period if you experience a significant life event, such as moving to a different state, losing previous health insurance coverage, getting married, or having a child.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Get Health Insurance When I Retire?

When you retire, you have multiple options for health insurance: 

  • Medicare: When you turn 65, you are eligible for Medicare, an insurance program operated by the federal government. 
  • COBRA: When you leave your job, you have the option of extending your employer-offered health benefits through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). With COBRA, you can continue your coverage for 18 to 36 months. 
  • Health Insurance Marketplace: You can purchase private insurance under the Affordable Care Act on healthcare.gov. 
  • Short-term coverage: Private insurance companies often sell short-term coverage, which is a form of temporary insurance you can use to bridge the gap until other coverage goes into effect. 

Do I Need Health Insurance If I Have Medicare?

While Medicare is an excellent option for retirees, you won’t qualify for it until you turn 65. If you retire before that date, you’re responsible for getting your own coverage. 

However, even eligible Medicare beneficiaries may need additional insurance. 

Medicare covers a large portion of your health expenses, but it doesn’t pay for all of your necessary medical services. Original Medicare—which is made up of Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance)—doesn’t cover:

  • Dental care
  • Hearing aids
  • Long-term care
  • Prescription drugs
  • Routine foot care

If you want insurance that covers the above services, you’ll need additional coverage, such as a Medicare Advantage Plan. 

How Much Does Health Insurance for Retirees Cost?

When it comes to health insurance as a retiree, your costs depend on what insurance options you choose and your age.

Original Medicare: There are two parts to Original Medicare: 

  • Part A: You won’t pay a premium for Medicare Part A as long as you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes for a certain amount of time. If you aren’t eligible for premium-free Part A, you can purchase Part A coverage. It costs $259 to $471 per month as of 2021. 
  • Part B: All beneficiaries have to pay a premium for Part B coverage. The standard Part B monthly premium is $148.50 per month, but it can increase based on your income. 

Medicare Advantage Plans: If you opt for a Medicare Advantage Plan, you may have to pay a monthly premium in addition to your Part B premium. The average monthly premium for a Medicare Advantage Plan is $25. 

Health Insurance Marketplace Plans: If you purchase insurance through healthcare.gov, your monthly premium cost is dependent on what tier you choose, the provider network, your selected deductible, and whether you are eligible for a subsidy. The average marketplace benchmark premium is $452 per month. 

COBRA: With COBRA, you can continue your employer-offered insurance policy, but you’re responsible for paying the entire premium yourself. The average premium for single coverage is $466 per month, or $5,588 per year. 

Short-term coverage: Short-term coverage tends to be inexpensive, costing just $116 per month, on average. 

Methodology

To identify the best health insurance companies for retirees beyond Medicare, we looked at 18 providers of Medicare Advantage Plans, Medigap policies, private insurance, and short-term coverage. We evaluated each company based on their coverage options, costs, benefits, and financial stability for seniors to select the top five companies. 

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Kaiser Family Foundation. "A Dozen Facts About Medicare Advantage Plans." Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  2. AM Best. "AM Best Revises Outlooks to Positive for UnitedHealth Group Incorporated and Its UnitedHealthcare Subsidiaries." Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  3. Fidelity Investments. "Health Care Price Check: A Couple Retiring Today Needs $285,000 As Medical Expenses in Retirement Remain Relatively Steady." Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  4. AM Best. "AM Best Revises Outlook to Stable for Humana Inc. and Its Subsidiaries." Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  5. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Seniors & Medicare and Medicaid Enrollees." Accessed July 3, 2021.

  6. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "2019 Market Share Reports For the Top 125 Accident and Health Insurance Groups and Companies by State and Countrywide." Page 19. Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Who Is Eligible for Medicare?" Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  8. U.S. Department of Labor. "FAQs on COBRA Continuation Health Coverage for Workers." Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  9. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. "What's Not Covered by Part A and Part B?" Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  10. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. "Part A Costs." Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  11. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. "Part B Costs." Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  12. Kaiser Family Foundation. "A Dozen Facts About Medicare Advantage Plans in 2020." Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  13. Kaiser Family Foundation. "Marketplace Average Benchmark Premiums." Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  14. Kaiser Family Foundation. "2020 Employer Health Benefits Survey." Accessed July 3, 2021. 

  15. eHealth. "Short-Term Health Plans Cost 224 Percent Less than Obamacare Plans Per Month." Accessed July 3, 2021.