Best Medicare Advantage Plan Providers for 2020

Get extra coverage with these best Medicare Advantage Plans

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Best Medicare Advantage Plan Providers of 2020

There’s more to Medicare than Original Medicare: An estimated 36% of Medicare beneficiaries are opting for Medicare Advantage. This is when you choose a private health insurance company to provide your Medicare benefits, and the health plans are often area-specific. They provide cost savings to you by creating a regional network of providers the company negotiates with to lower health care costs. To stay competitive, Medicare Advantage companies often offer benefits beyond traditional Medicare, such as vision, dental, or hearing coverage.

You can enroll in Medicare Advantage during several key times throughout the year (we’ll discuss these later). Because there are many Medicare Advantage options to choose from, we reviewed more than 40 top Medicare Advantage companies. Keep reading to find out who made the cut.

Our Top Picks

Kaiser Permanente: Best Overall

Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente

Pros
  • One of only 15 plans nationwide to achieve Medicare’s Five-Star Rating

  • $0 copayments for preventive care services

  • Many plans have a $0 premium

Cons
  • Offers only health maintenance organization (HMO) plans

  • Most plans provide no coverage for out-of-network services

  • Must pay premiums for its “Advantage Plus” or “Enhanced” supplemental plans

Kaiser Permanente is one of the largest nonprofit healthcare plans in the United States. It offers plans in nine eight states plus the District of Columbia: California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. The Better Business Bureau rates Kaiser an A+, citing a very low complaint volume relative to its membership. 

Kaiser’s approach to care is a unique one in the Medicare Advantage market: it employs its physicians, which ideally removes incentives to perform unnecessary and often costly procedures, such as lab work, imaging, or biopsy procedures. Kaiser also places a strong emphasis on preventive care services, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes screenings, which are offered at no cost in its Medicare Advantage plans. These efforts cut down on members' out-of-pocket expenses.

Kaiser also consistently scores in the highest star ratings for its plans, receiving 5 out of 5 stars for “Superior” plans in California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and 4.5 stars for its Oregon and Washington plans. The star ratings take into account quality of care, customer service, member complaints, and the accuracy of drug pricing information.

Preventive care emphasis and plus customer satisfaction are why we are counting Kaiser Permanente as the best overall for Medicare Advantage.

Humana: Best for Veterans

Humana

Humana

Pros
  • Highly accessible customer service department

  • Offers wide variety of plans — including Private-Fee-For-Service plans

  • Honors veterans with a “Humana Honor” Medicare Advantage plan

Cons
  • Doesn’t offer HMO plans in all states

  • More PPO plan options mean you may pay a premium

Humana is one of the largest Medicare Advantage insurers in the country, with more than 4 million members in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico enrolled in its Medicare plans. Currently, an estimated 18% of all Medicare Advantage enrollees are in a Humana health plan. 

Humana has a strategic partnership with the Walgreen’s pharmacy chain, which provides cost savings at Walgreen’s locations as well as in-store customer service by further discounting medications compared with other pharmacies. It also offers a large library of articles in its “Member Resources” section and a mobile MyHumana app, so you’ll always have your member card and information about your coverage accessible on your phone.

It offers one of the widest varieties of plans we reviewed, including HMO, PPO, SNP, and private-fee-for-service (PFFS) plans, which allow you to see any Medicare-approved doctor who accepts the terms for payment.

PFFS represent a small percentage of plans patients use nationwide, but they are often a good option if you live in a rural area and don’t want to have to get a physician’s referral for specialty care, or if you have limited choices for in-network providers.

Customer service representatives are available by phone or you can request an appointment to meet online. Another example of Humana’s customer commitment is its Humana Honor plan. This plan is designed to honor veterans and features a $0 premium intended to enhance existing coverage through the Veterans Administration. In 2020, the Honor plan was available in 28 states.

Cigna: Best in Reputation/Stability

Cigna

Cigna

Pros
  • Offers a number of Special Needs Plans and coordinated care

  • Nearly 90% of its plans are premium-free

  • Owns ExpressScripts Pharmacy, which means cost-savings for medications

Cons
  • Most plans are HMOs

  • Relies heavily on its website for customer service or plan questions

It’s hard to find a better insurance pedigree than Cigna — its “corporate ancestors” were founded in 1792 (Insurance Company of North America) and 1865 (Connecticut General Life Insurance Company). Today, about 2% of total Medicare Advantage enrollees have Cigna plans. Its plans are offered in 26 states and the District of Columbia and are usually well-rated, including 4.5-star plans.

When you visit Cigna's website, the landing page allows you to navigate the plans based on your Medicare Advantage knowledge. This helps you gain information that’s easier to understand based on where you are in your Medicare Advantage search. The plan options also include Special Needs Plans (SNPs), which include plans for those in long-term care facilities, those who receive Medicaid assistance, or people who have chronic conditions like congestive heart failure. It does offer PPOs, but not in all regions.

The company also offers a free Case Management program to all Medicare Advantage enrollees. This staff includes health care professionals who can help coordinate transitions from hospital to home, explain your medications list, and help you find wellness programs in your area — further illustrating Cigna's client commitment.

In terms of stability, Cigna usually receives high financial ratings, which helps you feel like your care is in good hands.

Aetna: Best for Educating

Aetna

Aetna

Pros
  • Available in more than 45 states and the District of Columbia

  • Has an extensive library of Medicare information

  • Has many $0 premium plans

Cons
  • Plan comparisons on its website take time to navigate

  • Some plans are too new to receive a star rating

The health insurance landscape can be complicated. Aetna strives to help you make the most informed decisions for your care thanks to the numerous educational materials available on its website. 

Some of the key resources you’ll find include “Help Me Understand Medicare,” a guide that breaks down Medicare into its key components. There’s also a section on “What You Need to Know About Medicare” that allows you to read articles based on your role in the Medicare selection process. This includes “New to Medicare” and “I’m a caregiver helping a loved one.” Aetna has also produced its own informative videos like “Unpacking Medicare” to help visually answer some of the key questions subscribers may have about Medicare.

Aetna not only has a lot of educational tools, it's also a longstanding health insurance company that was founded in 1853. In 2018, Aetna became a subsidiary of CVS. It offers plans in 45 states as well as the District of Columbia. It expanded its plan networks in 2020, including new Dual Eligible Special Needs programs in six markets as well as other program expansions, so Medicare ratings aren’t available for all plans.

In 2020, Aetna achieved its first 5-star health plan, and three-fourths of its members are enrolled in plans that are 4.5 stars or higher. 

Aetna also offers unique supplemental benefits, including a fall prevention program where members receive yearly funds to purchase home safety items and a companionship benefit that partners college students with older adults so they can receive extra help around the house.

UnitedHealthcare: Best for Extras

UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare

Pros
  • Serves all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with a variety of plan choices

  • Most plans include comprehensive “extra” benefits

  • Has strategic partnership with AARP

Cons
  • UnitedHealthcare’s large size can feel overwhelming when navigating its website

  • Plan critics say UnitedHealthcare favors larger physicians’ groups

More than one quarter of the country’s Medicare Advantage enrollees are in a UnitedHealthcare plan — the largest amount for any company. While bigger isn’t always better, UnitedHealthcare has used its size to offer additional benefits to its enrollees and serves enrollees in every state. The company has operated since 1977.

UnitedHealthcare has had a partnership with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) since 1997. Through this partnership, the organizations perform research on the health and well-being of their members. UnitedHealthcare uses this information to structure its plans and offer benefits. Many of the plans offer perks such as dental, vision, hearing, and virtual visits through UnitedHealthcare’s telehealth partners. Both HMOs and PPOs are available.

The company has created its own fitness program called Renew Active, which provides a gym membership, access to a Fitbit community and online classes, and access to “AARP Staying Sharp,” an exclusive brain health program for Medicare Advantage members.

Another “extra” is UnitedHealth’s “Passport” feature. This allows you to receive in-network coverage when you travel to areas in the Passport service area, which includes most regions in the United States (even Hawaii).

Not all plans have the Passport benefit, so read carefully if you love to travel. 

From its Health4Me mobile app to its focus on extras that provide preventive care and domestic travel coverage, UnitedHealthcare offers many additional benefits with its plans.

What Is a Medicare Advantage Plan?

Most Medicare Advantage plans are Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) or Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO). They are region-specific. You choose providers from the insurance company’s list to experience the greatest cost-savings. In return, you usually get extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t offer, including meal delivery, fitness plans, vision care, and more.

Medicare Advantage plans allow you to choose a private insurance company to fulfill your Medicare benefits. Insurance companies often call Medicare Advantage “Medicare Part C.” These plans combine Part A (hospital coverage), Part B (medical coverage), and sometimes Part D (prescription drug coverage). You’ll still pay your Part B premium and sometimes a premium for your Medicare Advantage plan, depending on which plan you choose.

The U.S. government requires Medicare Advantage plans to offer at least the same level of coverage as Original Medicare. However, each plan may structure how you pay for care. This includes co-payments for doctor’s visits and deductibles for medical care and medications.

Carefully review each Medicare Advantage plan and think about your average and projected healthcare needs in a year when choosing a new plan.

How Are Medicare Advantage Plans and Medigap Plans Different?

Medigap or Medicare supplement plans are those that private insurance companies offer to those with Original Medicare. You can’t have both a Medicare Advantage plan and a Medigap one. 

Insurance companies offer Medigap plans to help cover some of the out-of-pocket costs that can come with Medicare. This includes some co-payments and co-insurances, blood transfusions up to the first three pints, and foreign travel care. The government requires insurance companies to standardize Medigap plans, so the main difference is the cost you pay based on the quote or quotes an insurance company gives you.

Medicare Advantage plans cover Parts A, B, and sometimes D. They aren’t standardized and vary by where you live.

What Should I Expect to Pay for a Medicare Advantage Plan?

With Medicare Advantage, you’ll pay monthly premiums, deductibles, and co-insurance costs for doctor’s visits. The costs for these depend on the plan you choose. Remember too that you’ll still pay your monthly Part B premium, unless you receive special assistance.

An estimated 60% of people enrolled in Medicare Advantage don’t pay a premium for their coverage. For 2020, the average Medicare Advantage enrollee paid $25 per month for their Medicare Advantage premium. About 6% of people pay more than $100 a month.

Medicare Advantage plans often have higher deductibles than Original Medicare, which means you could pay more out-of-pocket.

When Can I Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan?

You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan at several key times during the year:

• Your Initial Enrollment Period: You become Medicare eligible the first three months before you turn 65, your birth month, and three months after your birth month when you’re first eligible for Medicare.

• Medicare Open Enrollment: October 15 through December 7

5-Star Special Enrollment Period: December 8 and November 30 (you can only enroll in a 5-star Medicare Advantage plan at this time)

• Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment: January 1 through March 31 

Once you find the insurance company that most interests you, contact it directly to find out more about signing up for Medicare Advantage during an enrollment period.

How We Chose the Best Medicare Advantage Plans 

For this ranking, we looked at more than 40 insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans. The main criteria were availability of plan choices, wide range of premium costs, and national footprint, so that the ranking would be useful to a larger number of people. We also considered Medicare Star Ratings of 4 or greater as these reflect customer service and plan loyalty by current subscribers. In addition to these criteria, we evaluated plan websites for information, navigability, and ease of signing up for a plan. We also reviewed awards, recognitions, and rankings from outside well-known consumer and data analytics companies.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kaiser Family Foundation. “A Dozen Facts About Medicare Coverage in 2020.” Accessed August 26, 2020. 

  2. Better Business Bureau. “Kaiser Foundation Health Plans.” Accessed August 21, 2020. 

  3. Business Wire. “‘Humana Honor’ Plans Affirm Humana’s Commitment to Veterans, Complement Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care.” Accessed August 29, 2020. 

  4. CVS Health. “Aetna’s 2020 Medicare Plans Connect Members with More Personalized Care and Benefits In Their Homes and Communities.” Accessed August 28, 2020. 

  5. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Fact Sheet - 2020 Part C and D Star Ratings.” Accessed August 27, 2020.