Medicare Insurance Review Methodology

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Medicare Advantage plans offer an all-in-one package of benefits meant as an alternative to Original Medicare. They often bundle in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, too. These plans are approved by Medicare, but offered by private insurers. Choosing one requires research that may seem overwhelming, but we have done a lot of the legwork for you. 

We put in more than 100 hours researching top providers to come up with our list of the best Medicare Advantage plans. We collected and analyzed thousands of data points for 13 major insurers who offer Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Part D prescription medication coverage, or Medicare supplement plans. Here’s exactly how we determined who came out on top.

Which Articles Use Our Methodology

This document describes how we came up with our list of the Best Medicare Advantage Plans. Other articles piggyback on this research and our grading process, but focus on specific products, namely Best Medicare Part D Providers and Best Medicare Supplement Companies. To come up with the winners on those lists, we added product-specific criteria and expert insights to our process.  

Literature Review

We started our review process by identifying the Medicare Advantage providers with the largest market share. Sources included Statistia, Plunkett, and Gale. We also got a feel for public interest and industry trends by examining user-generated data from Google. 

Data Collection and Verification

Our data collectors gathered information about providers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), company websites, media contacts, and existing partnerships with insurance providers. On top of that, we looked at third-party ratings from AM Best, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), and J.D. Power. Data points were then verified by checking primary sources to make sure the data was accurate.

Ratings Methodology

Once the data was gathered, we came up with star ratings. Companies were given 0 to 5 stars based these weighted criteria:  

  • (30%) Plan quality and customer satisfaction: We guaged plan quality and customer satisfaction by looking at providers’ CMS and NCQA ratings. Each organization has an independent five-star rating system that measures customer experience and patient care outcomes. The ratings are intended to help people compare plans while shopping for providers. 
  • (20%) Cost to value: Our analysis of costs included plan premiums, deductibles, maximum out-of-pocket amounts, and whether additional drug coverage is offered in the Medicare gap. We then compared those costs to the company’s CMS and NCQA star ratings.
  • (15%) Additional drug coverage offered in the Medicare gap: The gap, or "donut hole," is a period of time when prescription drug coverage is limited. You may have to pay up to 25% of medication costs during this time, unless your plan provides extra coverage.We rewarded the plans that do. 
  • (15%) State availability: How many states is the plan offered in? Companies scored higher for having widespread geographic coverage. 
  • (10%) Additional plan benefits: We gave providers higher scores for having additional benefits included in their MA plans. Coverage for vision, dental, hearing, and telehealth care, as well as non-emergency transportation, worldwide emergency care, or gym memberships all counted. 
  • (5%) Types of plans available: Managed care organizations, such as HMOs and PPOs, deliver the care covered by Medicare Advantage plans. The more types of managed care options available, the higher we scored the company.
  • (5%) Special needs plans: Companies scored higher if they offered plans designed for patients with specific diseases, such as diabetes or cancer.
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