What is a Medicare Advantage Plan?
A Medicare Advantage plan is a substitution for the Original Medicare plan and is purchased through a private insurance company. Medicare contracts with some of the private insurance companies to provide insurance coverage to qualified Medicare beneficiaries. With the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period running from January 1 to March 31, it is the time for the beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans to change their coverage. During this period beneficiaries can switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan, or they can dis-enroll from the Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare, and they are able to join a Part D plan.
Difference Between a Medicare Advantage Plan and Original Medicare
The primary difference between the two is that Original Medicare is managed and administered by the federal government whereas Medicare Advantage is managed by private insurance companies having a contract with Medicare. Both these plans provide Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B benefits but Medicare Advantage plans also give the option for prescription drug benefits or Medicare Part D. Medicare Advantage plans turn out to be a money-saver option for beneficiaries, who save a significant amount of money in out-of-pocket expenses, low copays and deductibles, and most of the Advantage plans charge $0 for monthly premiums.
Which Company offers the Best Medicare Advantage Plan?
The answer to this may vary from individual to individual because best for a person may mean lowest monthly premium or best for another person may mean lowest cost-sharing, or for some, it might mean highest overall customer satisfaction rating or the plan with the most benefits might attract most to some. So the best medicare Advantage plan will vary from one person to another. Based on company ratings, coverage options and benefits find below some of the best carriers offering Medicare Advantage plans:
Aetna Medicare Advantage Plans Come with Additional Benefits
Aetna health insurer holds a great reputation, as the company has a long history of credibility and stability. The company is regarded as one of the best if not the best because the company has obtained 4 to 5 stars out of 5 in Medicare’s CMS rating system and has also earned the title of an AM Best A Rated Company. This health insurance carrier offers some best Medicare Advantage plans and the carrier has a nationwide network. The Advantage plans offered by this carrier offers a wide range of coverage and benefits and also include some unique benefits that are not offered by other Advantage plans.
The Advantage plans of this carrier generally come included with vision and dental benefits and some plans also offer the SilverSneakers Fitness program. Most of Aetna’s Medicare Advantage plans start at $0 per month and offer some distinctive benefits like home delivery of the prescription drug, meals at home program provides nutritious meals to the member’s door after a hospital stay, and over the counter benefits allow members to pay for vitamins and cold medicines. The best thing about the Aetna Medicare Advantage plans is that these plans have a 24/7 on-call nursing line and all these benefits are offered at the most competitive price.
Aetna offers both an HMO and a PPO Medicare Advantage plans. For some of the healthcare, members are allowed to visit an out-of-network healthcare provider. However, with the PPO Advantage plan, members can choose a provider without a referral that accepts Medicare plans though they need to pay more while using an out-of-network provider. Members looking for Advantage plans can speak to a licensed agent over the phone to check about the Advantage plan available in their area and to obtain quotes. Aetna Medicare Advantage plans also have an extensive network of pharmacies, so members can easily fill their prescriptions from a nearby pharmacy. The price of most of the generic drugs starts at $1.
BlueCross BlueShield Enjoy Best Rating by Customers
BlueCross BlueShield is an association of 36 health insurance companies like CareFirst, Horizon, Anthem, Wellmark, and others. BCBS collectively is considered as the 3rd largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans. Besides being one of the largest health insurance carriers, the company is also regarded as the most reliable, and highly reputed insurance carrier in the United States. As per the Kaiser Family Foundation, this carrier provides coverage to around 15% of Medicare Advantage enrollees. The company is known as a stable, secure company offering a wide array of Medicare Advantage plans.
According to the Medicare Star Ratings System, most of the Medicare Advantage plans offered by the BCBS are rated 4-stars or above. This carrier has one of the largest networks of providers and approx 95% of nationwide doctors and hospitals accept Advantage plans of BCBS. This carrier offers Medicare Advantage plans in 42 states and Puerto Rico. Most of the Advantage plans offer prescription drug coverage along with additional coverages like dental, vision, and hearing services. The members of the Advantage plans receive care from a predetermined network of providers and they also have cost-sharing responsibilities, such as premiums, health and drug deductibles, and copays for doctor visits. Some BCBS Advantage plans come with $0 premiums, though the overall costs and availability of plans depend on the area where the members live.
The majority of the Advantage plans offered by BCBS fall into either HMO or PPO categories. BlueMedicare Choice PPO is an Advantage plan of BCBS that allows members to visit preferred, in-network providers at reduced rates. Though members of this plan can see out-of-network providers, but they will have to pay the difference between the PPO’s discounted rate and the out-of-network rate. Members of this plan do not require to select a primary care physician or obtain a referral to see a specialist.
Cigna Known for Extensive Large Network
Cigna is one of the largest health insurers in the United States, offering Medicare coverage to nearly half a million beneficiaries in 26 states. Cigna is the seventh-largest Medicare Advantage plan provider in the United States providing coverage to 86 million people. The company has a robust network of provides and services and also a long history of quality service. The majority of the Advantage plans offered by Cigna are HMO plans that are generally more affordable and restrictive compared to other plans. With the market expanding and more seniors opting for Medicare Advantage plans, Cigna aims to give more options and flexibility to its members through the PPO plans.
Around 90% of the Advantage plans offer by Cigna have $0 monthly premiums and 50% of the Advantage plans offer prescription drug coverage. Cigna’s Medicare Advantage plans are known for offering budget-friendly coverage without extra costs. Cigna Advantage plans offer coverage beyond Part A and Part B and enrollees have the option to choose between a variety of coverage options, benefits, and costs to suit their individual needs. Though Cigna offers several low and no-cost Advantage plans but still these plans offer competitive benefits and even prescription drug coverage.
Cigna offers quality Medicare Advantage plans at an affordable price and offers a variety of plans for people with special needs. The best thing is that majority of Cigna’s Advantage plans also offer prescription drug coverage. Thus Cigna’s plan is best for individuals who are on a tight budget and are eligible for a Special Needs Plan, and individuals who are looking for an all-in-one plan that offers prescription coverage.
Cigna provides a nationwide prescription drug plan with a $0 deductible and $0 copay on many prescriptions and the plan charges no extra costs for additional services such as health coaching and fitness plan. Cigna Advantage plans also include dental, vision, and hearing coverage and even provide transportation facilities for medical appointments and pharmacy visits. The company’s unique medical model focuses on holistic care and customer engagement like its plan provides home-delivered meals after hospitalization for offering a better experience to patients.
AARP/UnitedHealthcare – Preferred for Promoting Seniors Health
AARP/UnitedHealthcare is also a leading and reputed health insurance carrier known for its high CMS ratings, an excellent rating from AM Best, and due to its wide array of plans offering comprehensive benefits that are specifically designed to support long-term health and wellness for seniors. Founded in 1977, AARP/UnitedHealthcare is today considered a national leader in healthcare management offering coverage to millions of people through its PPOs and HMOs Medicare Advantage plans. For the last 23 years, AARP has partnered with UnitedHealthcare to offer Medicare Advantage plans which is a significant endorsement value shared by the carrier. The company has been rated “A” from A.M. Best that assessed the company’s ability to meet policyholders’ financial needs.
Around 26% of the Medicare Advantage enrollees or 24 million enrollees received coverage through AARP/UnitedHealthcare in 2020, and this carrier is regarded as the largest Medicare Part C provider in the country. The company is known to offer a broad range of plans for individuals of different budgets and lifestyles. The company has obtained 5 stars out of 5 from Medicare’s CMS rating system and offers many unique plans to people of the United States. The Medicare Advantage plans of this carrier provide coverage for routine dental care, eye exams, eyeglasses, and corrective lenses along with hearing tests and hearing aids. Medical Savings Account plans offered by this carrier combine with a high-deductible Medicare Advantage plan with a special savings account. Members of this plan are free to visit any provider of their choice and can withdraw the amount from the special savings account to pay for qualified healthcare services.
AARP Medicare Advantage Choice is the most popular Advantage plan offered by AARP UnitedHealthcare that offers coverage for routine dental, vision, and hearing coverage, and also provides some additional coverage like fitness memberships and over-the-counter drug coverage. This plan is a good option for individuals who prefer their choice in selecting healthcare providers and out-of-network services.
Humana Preferred for Variety of Advantage Plans
Humana is the second-largest health insurance provider of Medicare Advantage plans in the United States having around 4 million members representing around 18% of all beneficiaries having Advantage plans. Humana is a highly acknowledged and highly reputed health insurance carrier with a history of quality service. Humana’s Medicare Advantage Plans offer numerous health and wellness benefits and also provide resources for managing chronic diseases. This carrier offers several wellness benefits and incentive programs in its Advantage plans and most of the plans include drug coverage.
Humana health insurance carrier is considered best because the carrier offers an extensive variety of Advantage plans compared to other carriers and this carrier offers plans in almost entire of America, covering 47 states of the nation. The Humana Medicare Advantage plans offer several unique benefits like the SilverSneakers fitness program, prescription drug coverage and mail delivery pharmacy, routine dental, and hearing care. The HMO Advantage plans offered by this carrier are available with $0 premiums in some locations and PPO Advantage plans allow members to visit any Medicare- approved doctor, though visiting in-network providers turn out to be less expensive.
Eighteen Medicare Advantage plans offered by Humana have a 4-star or higher from Medicare in 2020 that indicates the above-average quality of the plans offered by this carrier. Six of those eighteen plans received a four and a half star or higher rating, which is close to Medicare’s top rating of five stars given for excellence. The company is known to offer a wide range of Advantage plan options to cater to the diverse needs of its members within an affordable price range. The enrollees of Humana’s Advantage plans have simple and convenient online tools for managing claims, understanding coverage, and getting records. Though some of the customers cite slow and ineffective customer service.