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Best Medicare Advantage Plans of 2023

UnitedHealthcare has the largest provider network and strong third-party ratings

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Medicare Advantage plans offer a marketplace-style way to obtain Medicare coverage. Unlike Original Medicare, you can shop around with private, Medicare-approved companies that bundle Part A, Part B, and often Part D coverage with other perks like dental and vision benefits. 

While Medicare Advantage (MA) plans usually come with more coverage and lower out-of-pocket costs, they don’t all offer the same level of value. Coverage, availability, cost, and more can vary greatly from one provider to the next. So, how do you know which is best for your situation? We did the research for you. Here are the six best Medicare Advantage plans of 2023.

Best Medicare Advantage Plans of 2023

Best Medicare Advantage Plans of 2023
Best Medicare Advantage Plans of 2023

Best Overall Medicare Advantage Plans : AARP / UnitedHealthcare

The Balance's Rating
4.7

AARP Medicare Advantage (By UnitedHealthcare)

 AARP Medicare Advantage (By UnitedHealthcare)

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Available in 49 states

  • A+ (Superior) AM Best financial strength rating

  • 3.89 average NCQA rating

  • 4.18 Medicare star rating

  • 808 J.D. Power score

  • 77% of plans have additional drug coverage in the gap

Cons
  • Slightly higher costs overall

  • Availability of plans and providers varies by location

NCQA ratings are ratings created by nonprofit National Committee of Quality Assurance, an organization that does assessments and ratings of health care companies. 

Why We Chose It

All factors considered, UnitedHealthcare (UHC) AARP Medicare Advantage plans outperformed the other insurance companies we analyzed. For starters, UHC is the largest provider of MA plans nationwide—plans are available in 49 states. Plus, members gain access to the largest provider network on the market (over a million doctors and facilities worldwide). 

Additionally, the plans are versatile. You can choose from a health maintenance organization (HMO), preferred provider organization (PPO), HMO-POS, or a private fee-for-service plan (PFFS), and many plans offer a variety of benefits (including vision, dental, hearing, and fitness). UHC also offers dual special needs plans (D-SNPs) for Medicaid-eligible individuals. As for ratings, UHC’s AARP plans scored well according to AM Best, the NCQA, J.D. Power, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (which provides Medicare star ratings). 

Learn more in our AARP review. 

Best Runner Up : Aetna

The Balance's Rating
4.7

Aetna Medicare Advantage

 Aetna Medicare Advantage

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Available in 47 states

  • A (Excellent) AM Best financial strength rating

  • 3.76 average NCQA rating

  • 4.14 Medicare star rating

  • 79% of plans have additional drug coverage in the gap

Cons
  • Below-average J.D. Power score of 796

Why We Chose It 

Aetna came in a close second behind AARP. The company’s plans are widely available, being offered in 47 states. Additionally, a full lineup of plan types is available, including HMOs, PPOs, and D-SNPs. Aetna also offers a variety of perks including vision, dental, hearing, transportation, and fitness benefits. Plus, most plans offer additional drug coverage in the Medicare gap or donut hole. 

Aetna ranked well with AM Best, NCQA, J.D. Power, and Medicare’s star ratings. It slightly beat UHC in terms of how many of its plans come with additional drug coverage in the Medicare donut hole. 

Learn more in our Aetna health insurance review.

Best Medicare Star Rating : Blue Cross Blue Shield

The Balance's Rating
4.5

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Available in 41 states

  • 4.27 Medicare star rating

  • Excellent financial strength rating

  • Low out-of-pocket plan maximums

Cons
  • 3.5 NCQA average rating

Why We Chose It 

Blue Cross Blue Shield was a close runner-up. It performed well across all the areas we considered and has a far-reaching service area—you can get plans in 41 states. 

The available plan types include HMOs, PPOs, private-fee-for-service plans, and regional PPOs. As for perks, plans often include vision benefits, wellness programs, and hearing aids. They also have the lowest plan limits on maximum out-of-pocket expenses, aside from Kaiser Permanente. 

As for the third-party ratings, Blue Cross Blue Shield earned the highest Medicare star rating out of the largest Medicare providers nationwide—4.27 stars. It earned the second-highest average Medicare rating on our list, behind Kaiser Permanente’s perfect 5-star rating. Additionally, Highmark, a BCBS subsidiary earned an above-average score of 811 from J.D. Power.

Learn more in our Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance review.

Great for Nationwide Coverage : Humana

The Balance's Rating
4.3

Humana

 Humana

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Available in 49 states

  • 4.04 Medicare star rating

  • A- (Excellent) AM Best financial strength rating

  • Second-highest J.D. Power score of 824

Cons
  • Only 32% of plans offer additional drug coverage in the gap

  • 3.56 average NCQA rating

Why We Chose It 

While you’ll have a harder time finding a Humana plan with additional drug coverage in the Medicare gap, it’s a good option to consider for nationwide coverage because its plans are available in 49 states. 

Additionally, the company has a versatile lineup of offerings and it fares well in third-party ratings. You can choose from HMOs, PPOs, and other plan types. Plus, Humana offers $0 premiums on PPO plans, Part B premium reductions, over-the-counter allowances, and dental care on many plans.

Humana’s standout third-party ratings include its above-average J.D. Power score of 824 (coming in second out of nine insurers for customer satisfaction), a 4.04-star average Medicare rating, and an A- (Excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best. 

Learn more in our Humana health insurance review.

Best for Customer Satisfaction : Kaiser Permanente

The Balance's Rating
4.1

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan

 Kaiser Foundation Health Plan

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Best NCQA average rating (4.75)

  • Best J.D. Power score (844)

  • 5-star average Medicare rating

Cons
  • Only HMO plans are available

  • No transportation benefits

  • Limited availability (eight states and Washington D.C.)

Why We Chose It 

While Kaiser Permanente has a very limited service area, only offering plans in eight states and Washington D.C., its customer service is excellent. The company earned a J.D. Power score of 844, coming in first out of nine providers. It has an average NCQA rating of 4.75, well above the next highest NCQA rating of 3.89 (UnitedHealthcare). Additionally, Kaiser earned a five-star Medicare rating across all its rated plans, which no other company we reviewed managed to do. 

However, as mentioned before, the plans are only available in Washington D.C. and California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. The types of plans Kaiser offers are limited, too—only HMOs are available. That said, if you’re looking for an HMO and live in one of the states mentioned above, Kaiser is worth considering.  

Learn more in our Kaiser Permanente health insurance review.

Great for Additional Drug Coverage in the Gap : Anthem

The Balance's Rating
3.9

Anthem Medicare Insurance Review

Anthem Medicare Insurance Review

Pros & Cons
  • Over 70% of plans offer additional drug coverage in the gap

  • A (Excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best

  • 3.94 average Medicare star rating

  • Only available in 12 states

  • Below average score of 791 JD Power


Why We Chose It 

While the coverage gap for prescription drugs is closing, it still exists. Many people will find themselves in the Medicare coverage gap or donut hole in the coming year and will have to pay 25% of the retail costs for all of their covered prescription drugs. However, if you find the right Medicare Advantage plan, your costs can be reduced. Anthem made our list because the company offers drug coverage in the gap on over 70% of its plans. Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, and Kaiser Permanente do as well, but other companies are not as generous. If you know you’ll enter the gap coverage phase and live in one of Anthem’s service areas, Anthem is a company to consider. 

Along with coverage in the gap, the company fares well in its plan offerings, perks, and ratings. It offers HMOs and PPOs along with benefits including vision, dental, hearing, transportation, and more. Further, it earned an A (Excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best.

Final Verdict 

When shopping for a Medicare Advantage plan, be sure to check out plans from UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Blue Cross BlueShield, and Humana. If you’re concerned that the prescription drugs you need will drive up costs because of the gap, make sure your plan offers additional drug coverage for the specific medications you take in the gap phase. 

If you want a plan provider with top-notch customer service, see if Kaiser Permanente’s plans are available in your state. If not, consider Humana. Overall, a good strategy is to shop around with various reputable plan providers, compare the coverage and pricing, and find the plan that’s the best fit for your unique situation. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Medicare Advantage?

Medicare Advantage plans offer an alternative way to get Medicare Part A (hospital stays) and Part B (doctor visits) through Medicare-approved private companies. They often come bundled with Medicare Part D (prescription drug) coverage and other benefits like vision, dental, and hearing.

What Is the Downside to Medicare Advantage?

While Original Medicare enables you to go to any doctor and visit any hospital as long as they accept Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans often require you to use in-network providers to get the lowest costs. Further, you may need a referral to see a specialist with an MA plan while Original Medicare often doesn’t require one.

The way your plan works depends on the type of MA plan you have. For example, HMOs restrict you to the doctors, healthcare providers, and hospitals in your plan’s network for non-emergency care. You also typically need to choose a primary care doctor and get referrals to see specialists. If you get care from a provider outside of the HMO’s network, you may have to pay the full cost of care. 

PPOs are more flexible, but they’re still more restrictive than Original Medicare. They also come with networks of doctors, healthcare providers, and hospitals. Staying in-network offers the best pricing, but you can usually get out-of-network care without paying the full cost.

When you’re limited to a plan’s network of doctors and service providers, it can be harder to get care when and where you need it. Additionally, if you prefer to go to a specialist without needing a referral from your primary care doctor, you should consider an MA PPO plan. 

What Is the Medicare Donut Hole or Coverage Gap?

Medicare Part D prescription drug plans provide an initial coverage period. During this time, you only pay your plan’s copay or coinsurance for the covered drugs you buy (once you’ve paid your deductible). However, once you and your insurer spend a certain combined amount—$4,660 in 2023—the initial coverage period ends.

At this point, you enter what’s known as the coverage gap. If your plan doesn’t include additional coverage in the gap, you’ll be responsible for 25% of the retail cost of the covered drugs you buy. This phase continues until your total qualified spending reaches the annual catastrophic coverage threshold—which is $7,400 in 2023. 

Once you reach catastrophic coverage, you’ll pay a steeply discounted rate until your plan starts over at the start of the year. In 2023, catastrophic coverage costs policyholders the greater of 5% of the drug’s cost or $4.15 for generic drugs and $10.35 for brand-name drugs. 

The coverage gap can leave you paying more out-of-pocket for drugs each year. If you’d like to reduce your drug costs while in the gap, look for a Medicare Advantage plan that offers additional coverage in the Medicare donut hole. For example, Aetna includes coverage in the gap on most of its plans.

How Much Does Medicare Advantage Cost?

Medicare Advantage plans involve a few different types of costs. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect:

  • Premiums: Premiums are the amount you pay each month to keep your health insurance coverage active. In 2023, Medicare Advantage premiums are projected to be $18 per month. Additionally, you’ll have to pay your Medicare Part B premium. In 2023, the standard Part B monthly premium is $164.90. However, it can be higher depending on your income.
  • Deductibles: Deductibles are the amount you have to pay before your insurance will cover your healthcare costs. Yours will vary depending on the plan you choose. However, Medicare drug plan deductibles can’t exceed $505 in 2023. 
  • Coinsurance/Copayments: Coinsurance and copayments refer to cost-sharing—the amount you’re required to pay for medical services after you pay your deductible. With coinsurance, it’s often a percentage of the amount due. With copayments, it’s often a flat payment amount. 
  • Out-of-network costs: Out-of-network costs are the fees you’ll pay when you use a healthcare provider that’s not in your plan’s network. You may have to pay the full cost or may get a discount—it’ll depend on the plan you choose. 

Medicare Advantage costs will vary between providers and plans, which is why it’s important to shop around. Once enrolled, you can review all the pricing details in the Evidence of Coverage notice your plan sends you. Additionally, plan providers are required to send you an Annual Notice of Change by September 30th of each year to notify you of any changes in your plan.

Methodology

To find the best Medicare Advantage plans for 2023 we analyzed various plan providers based on their company financials, customer satisfaction ratings, availability, plan features, and costs. To assess company financials, we looked at AM Best’s ratings. AM Best provides financial strength ratings to assess an insurer’s ability to meet its ongoing insurance policy and contract obligations. The rating scale ranges from D (Poor) to A++ (Superior). 

To assess customer satisfaction, we reviewed Medicare star ratings which measure the performance of Medicare Advantage and Part D plans across several metrics, including quality of care and customer service. We also looked at the star ratings provided by the NCQA, which measures the performance of managed care plans and member satisfaction. Additionally, we checked customer satisfaction scores provided by J.D. Power, which rate a company based on a variety of customer-service areas like overall satisfaction and satisfaction with services for mental health, substance abuse, and telemedicine.

For availability, we researched how many U.S. states each company serves. Then, we evaluated each provider’s plans by checking the available types of plans, benefits offered, and coverage in the gap. Lastly, we evaluated overall plan costs by sourcing multiple quotes in two ZIP codes in Texas and Florida, which represent the states with the highest Medicare Advantage enrollment.

We do not offer every plan available in your area. Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048) 24 hours a day/7 days a week to get information on all of your options. Not all plans offer all of these benefits. Benefits may vary by carrier and location. Limitations and exclusions may apply.

Plans are insured or covered by a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and/or a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in the plan depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare. Not all plans offer all of these benefits. Benefits may vary by carrier and location. Limitations and exclusions may apply.

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