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Best Medicare Part D Providers of 2023

AARP/UnitedHealthcare offers the best-rated Medicare Part D plans

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Medicare Part D is a part of the Medicare program that covers prescription drugs. In 2023, a total of 48.9 million people with Medicare are currently enrolled in plans that provide Medicare Part D. 

You can add Part D coverage to Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan without prescription drug coverage. Part D plans generally come with a deductible, which is the amount you'll pay before the insurance begins paying a portion of the costs. You may pay a late enrollment penalty if you don’t sign up for prescription drug coverage when you’re first eligible. 

There are several factors to consider when choosing a Part D plan, and it’s important to shop around. Plans vary in several key ways:

  • The cost of premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance
  • Medicare star ratings and other indicators of plan quality and customer satisfaction 
  • Which states they are available in
  • Whether they offer prescription coverage in the Medicare gap or donut hole. This is a temporary limit on what your plan will cover for drugs. 

We’ve considered all these factors in this round-up of the best Medicare Part D providers of 2023.

Best Medicare Part D Providers of 2023

Best Medicare Part D Providers of 2023
Best Medicare Part D Providers of 2023

Best Overall : AARP / UnitedHealthcare

The Balance's Rating
4.7

AARP/UnitedHealthcare

 AARP/UnitedHealthcare

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • High scores from AM Best and NCQA

  • Available in 50 states and Washington D.C.

  • High-value plans

  • Some plans offer additional drug coverage in the gap

Cons
  • Some plans rated poorly by NCQA

Why We Chose It

AARP Part D plans from UnitedHealthcare (UHC) offer the best Medicare prescription drug coverage for a few key reasons. These plans received high ratings from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which designates Medicare star ratings, and the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). On average, UHC plans received 3.82 out of 5 stars from the CMS and 3.89 out of 5 from the NCQA.

We compared plans among eight major carriers based on premiums, deductibles, individual plan star ratings, and whether they include additional drug coverage in the gap: UHC’s weren’t the lowest priced, but they offer the best value. In addition, UnitedHealthcare Part D plans are available in all 50 states and Washington D.C., and a third of them offer additional drug coverage in the Medicare donut hole, or coverage gap. This is important because some companies offer no additional drug coverage in the gap. 

Overall, this makes UnitedHealthcare AARP Part D plans the best available in 2023. 

Lowest Premiums : Aetna Medicare

The Balance's Rating
4.5

Aetna

Aetna 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • The lowest monthly premiums

  • Additional drug coverage in the gap available

  • Available nationwide

Cons
  • Average CMS rating

  • Some plans have a poor NCQA rating

Why We Chose It

Aetna has the lowest monthly premiums of Medicare Part D plans in 2023. 

Aetna offers three levels with its SilverScript plans: SmartSaver, Choice, and Plus. Aetna’s SilverScript SmartSaver PDP plans are the most affordable and have an average premium of $5.92 per month, which is the lowest average premium compared to all providers. If upfront cost is your main concern, Aetna may be the way to go. But this plan will be best for those who don’t spend a lot on prescription drugs and don’t need additional coverage in the Medicare donut hole.

Aetna’s Part D plans are available nationwide, and nearly a third of these plans offer drug coverage in the gap (only available with SilverScript Plus). Additionally, some of Aetna’s plans received high NCQA ratings. 

Learn more in our Aetna health insurance review.

Best Medicare Star Rating With Nationwide Availability : Humana

The Balance's Rating
4.4

Humana

 Humana

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Highly rated by Medicare (CMS)

  • Some plans rated highly by NCQA

  • Available in all 50 states and Washington D.C.

  • Additional coverage available in the Medicare coverage gap

Cons
  • Pharmacy network may not be sufficient for some

Why We Chose It

Humana’s Medicare Part D plans earned the highest average Medicare star rating relative to other insurers. Additionally, Humana’s plans have one big advantage over many other Part D plans—they are available in all 50 states and Washington D.C. Humana offers three levels of Part D prescription drug plans. You can find $0 deductibles on Tier 1 and Tier 2 drugs and low copays on generics in the Medicare donut hole, depending on which plan you choose.

On the downside, Humana’s preferred pharmacy network may not be sufficient for some, as it doesn’t include popular pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS, or RiteAid.

Overall, if you are looking for a well-rated plan, Humana’s Part D prescription drug plans are worth a look.

Learn more in our Humana health insurance review.

Best for $0 Copays : Cigna Medicare

The Balance's Rating
4.3

Cigna

 Cigna

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • $0 copays for many generic drugs

  • Available in 50 states and Washington D.C.

  • Additional drug coverage in the gap

Cons
  • Low CMS and average NCQA ratings

Why We Chose It

The biggest strength of Cigna’s Part D plans is that they don’t require any copays for certain generic drugs. Cigna also offers additional drug coverage in the gap, and plans are available nationwide.

Cigna’s Part D plans have some weaknesses, though. Its plans received comparatively low ratings from both the CMS and NCQA—averaging just 3.5 stars from CMS and 3.125 stars from the NCQA. Plan premiums can also be relatively expensive.

Overall, Cigna’s Part D plans might be a good choice if you need a steady supply of generic prescriptions—the lack of copays on many generic drugs means you only have to worry about paying your monthly premiums and your deductible.

Final Verdict

Overall, we think that the Medicare Part D plans offered by AARP and UnitedHealthcare will be the best choice for most people. These plans are highly rated, available across the country, and competitively priced.

There are some exceptions, though. If you are on a budget and are looking for the lowest monthly premiums, Aetna offers the cheapest Part D plans nationwide (on average). Similarly, if you want a plan with predictable costs, the $0 copay on many generic drugs is a huge plus for Cigna’s Part D plans. While Humana’s Medicare Part D plans have higher ratings, you’ll need to be sure its preferred pharmacy network works for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D is an optional benefit that helps pay the cost of prescription drugs. It’s available to anyone with Medicare. Even if you don’t take prescription drugs now, you should consider getting Medicare drug coverage when you’re eligible to enroll in Medicare, or you may pay a late enrollment penalty if you need Part D in the future.

You can add Part D coverage to Original Medicare or to a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t have prescription drug coverage. Medicare has a plan finder to help you pick the coverage that fits your goals and budget. You can search plans by zip code, input the prescription drugs you take, and provide your local pharmacy to find the best plan and provider for you.

How Much Is Medicare Part D?

The monthly premium of a Medicare Part D plan varies depending on your income and the plan you choose. In 2023, premiums range from $0 to $76 depending on your modified adjusted gross income and tax-filing status. The average premium is $31.50. 

Like Part B and most other insurance plans, Part D plans generally come with a deductible. This is the amount you'll pay before the insurance begins paying a portion of your healthcare costs. The highest annual deductible allowed by Medicare in 2023 for Part D is $505, but many plans come with a much smaller deductible, and some don’t have one. 

Each Part D plan will also have a copayment and coinsurance amount. A copayment is a fixed amount that you pay for your prescriptions. The copayment on generic drugs might be $5, while brand-name drugs on certain tiers might be $25. Higher tiers might require a larger copayment, and drug costs also vary by coverage phase (initial, gap, or catastrophic). For example, you might pay a coinsurance amount of 25% for drugs in the gap coverage phase, making your portion of a $400 bill $100.

What Is the Medicare Donut Hole Coverage?

Once you and your plan have spent $4,660 on covered prescription drugs in 2023, you enter the coverage gap, also known as the "donut hole.” This phase limits what your plan will cover for drugs until you and your plan spend $7,400. 

In 2023, Medicare will cover 75% of the price of both branded and generic drugs while you’re in the coverage gap. You’ll have to pay up to 25% of your drug costs until you hit the out-of-pocket maximum for your plan. Most insurance plans won’t cover the costs you pay when you’re in the donut hole unless the plan offers additional gap coverage. 

You won’t enter the coverage gap if you participate in the Medicare Extra Help program, and some drug companies have signed an agreement with Medicare to offer discounts on brand-name drugs to people in the coverage gap.

What Does Medicare Part D Cover?

All Part D plans must cover a variety of drugs that people with Medicare would typically take. Covered drugs include “protected” classes of medicine, like those you’d take if you had cancer or HIV/AIDS. 

The list of drugs that a particular plan covers is called a “formulary,” and each plan’s formulary may vary from other plans. Plan providers typically group drugs in their formulary into tiers, which are based on cost. A drug in a lower tier typically costs less than drugs in the higher tiers.

Your costs will also change depending on which coverage phase you’re in (initial, gap, catastrophic).

Methodology

We calculated star ratings for the quality of each company’s Part D prescription drug plans based on the following factors: 

  • Plan quality and member experience (30%): Medicare star ratings and NCQA health plan ratings were considered to determine member satisfaction with companies, in general, and Part D plans, specifically.
  • Additional coverage in the Medicare donut hole (25%): During the coverage gap phase or Medicare "donut hole," members are responsible for up to 25% of brand-name and generic drugs. Companies that offer additional drug coverage during the gap received higher star ratings.
  • Plan value (20%): Plan value is a measure of overall cost based on premiums, deductibles, copays, maximum out-of-pocket amounts, and star ratings.
  • State availability (15%): This indicates the availability of plans in the United States.
  • Financial strength (10%): Based on each company’s AM Best financial strength rating, this criteria indicates how well companies are positioned to pay insurance claims. 
African American pharmacist communicating with senior couple in a pharmacy.

skynesher / Getty Images

Article Sources
  1. Part D premiums were measured across two Florida and Texas ZIP codes, representing the areas of highest Medicare enrollment by state.

  2. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “2023 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles 2023 Medicare Part D Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts.”

  3. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “CMS Releases 2023 Projected Medicare Basic Part D Average Premium.”

  4. Medicare.gov. “Yearly Deductible for Drug Plans.”

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