- Best customer service: Aetna
- Best overall customer satisfaction: Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Best for pharmacy programs: Cigna
- Best benefits available: United Healthcare
- Best for dental benefits: Ambetter
- Best for Medicare coverage: Humana
- Best for low cost options: Kaiser Permanente
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 requires most U.S. adults to purchase health insurance. Health insurance is important because it can cover the costs of an unexpected accident, illness, or any routine medical care. And if more people decide to stay uninsured, the overall cost of health insurance will rise.
For some, health insurance might seem like a luxury. Plans can be expensive and difficult to understand. To help you find the best health insurance company to choose this year, we’ve analyzed some of the top networks in the United States.
Read on for our breakdown of these seven choices.
As we researched health insurance companies, we took a few key factors into account:
- Affordability. The cost of a monthly premium will vary based on your location, plan, and whether you’re covered by your employer. We still tried to find options that can fit every budget, though.
- Benefits. Benefits are additional services covered by health insurance, such as dental or vision care.
- Customer ratings and reviews. Finally, we combed through customer ratings and reviews to make sure we only recommended highly rated companies.
What types of health insurance plans are available, anyway?
Health insurance can get confusing. Here’s a quick breakdown of plans that are typically available through networks:
- Marketplace plans. Depending on what’s available in your area, you may find bronze, silver, gold, and platinum marketplace plans. These levels are broken down by how much you pay versus how much your network pays. Some of these can include:
- Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO). This is a managed care plan where services are covered only if you use doctors, specialists, or hospitals in your plan’s network, except in an emergency.
- Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). An HMO usually limits coverage to care from doctors who work for or contract with the HMO. It generally won’t cover out of network, except in an emergency. The plan may require you to live or work in its service area to be eligible for coverage.
- Point of Service (POS). With this plan, you may pay less if you use doctors, hospitals, or other healthcare professionals that belong to the plan’s network. They typically require you to get a referral from your primary care doctor to see a specialist.
- Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). You pay less if you use providers in the plan’s network. You can, however, use doctors, specialists, and hospitals that are out of network without a referral for an additional cost.
- High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs). For HDHPs, there’s a higher deductible than most healthcare networks, but there’s a lower monthly premium. You can combine an HDHP with a health savings account (HSA) or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA).
- Medicaid. Medicaid is a federal and state program that helps with healthcare costs for people with limited resources and incomes. Some people who are eligible for Medicaid include low income adults, children, pregnant people, older adults, and people with disabilities.
- Medicare. This is a federal health insurance network for people who are 65 years old or older, some younger people with diseases, and people with end stage renal disease.
Best customer service
As one of the nation’s oldest health insurance companies, Aetna insures consumers for health, dental, and vision care. Part of CVS Health, they have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
You get convenient walk-in care options by choosing Aetna, which is available across the country. By purchasing an Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace insurance plan, you receive access to telehealth services, $0 MinuteClinic visits, free screenings, preventive care, and more.
Aetna is also known for their Medicare and Medicaid plans available in all 50 states. With Medicare and Medicaid, you’ll receive all the benefits and services originally offered by Medicare, plus extras like a fitness benefit, dental, vision, or hearing care.
- Offers nationwide coverage, HSAs, and wellness programs with their health plans.
- Quality customer service options are available online.
- There’s a reward program available through Attain by Aetna for healthy actions and choices.
- Wide selection of providers nationwide.
- No short term plans are available.
- They do not work with independent insurance agents.
Best overall customer satisfaction
Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) is a widely used health insurance provider available in all 50 states. They’ve been serving people in the United States for more than 90 years.
BCBS offers corporate health insurance, individual health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, dental insurance, and more. Over 1.7 million doctors and hospitals are in network with BCBS. Many plans include the Blue365 program for Medicare members, which provides discounts on health- and wellness-related products and services.
Other plans come with benefits such as:
- fitness discounts
- over-the-counter medication management
While BCBS is a widely trusted insurance company, if you’re looking to purchase a premium, you may have to do some extra work up front. BCBS consists of 35 separate companies that are locally operated, meaning it will take some research to find the plans that apply to you.
- Low cost plans are available, with $0 premiums in 45 states for Medicare members.
- Extra benefits are available with the Blue365 discount program.
- You can get nationwide coverage.
- Separate plans are decided geographically and require extra research.
Best for pharmacy programs
Although not available in every state, Cigna offers health insurance that may be more affordable than others on our list. The network also includes impressive pharmacy programs, making it an especially good option for people with regular prescriptions for medications.
With standalone drug plans that work alongside Medicare and over 67,000 contracted pharmacies, Cigna is an excellent choice for pharmacy programs. You can also receive home delivery with Express Scripts Pharmacy, or connect with a licensed pharmacist whenever you have questions about your medication.
Cigna also offers health insurance for U.S. emigrants living abroad. Plus, with the myCigna website and accompanying mobile app, it’s fast and simple to manage health goals, appointment reminders, and claims.
With that being said, Cigna only offers individual and family health insurance plans in the following states:
- North Carolina
- Their call center is open 24/7.
- Free virtual medical visits with dedicated virtual care physicians.
- Great pharmacy programs.
- Telehealth care isn’t available for all plans.
- Only available in 13 states.
- Annual out-of-pocket limits are high.
Best benefits available
United Healthcare, also called United, offers individual and family health insurance plans in 18 states. Customers love the extra programs and tools that are available, such as virtual visits, mental health care, rewards programs, house calls, and more.
United provides health insurance plans that include dental, vision, and health. Medicare, Medicaid, short-term insurance, and small business plans are also available.
Individual plans from United can often be more expensive than plans from other companies. However, many resources are available for people who are able to get insured by United.
Individual and family plans are also only available in 18 states:
- New York
- North Carolina
- They’re the only health insurer partnered with AARP.
- Plans are highly rated.
- Virtual visits and free house calls are available with some plans.
- A ton of programs are available with United, like support for quitting smoking, mental health care, maternity support, and more.
- Plans are more expensive.
- In some cases, claims have to be submitted by the customer.
- United is only available in some states.
Best for dental benefits
Owned by managed care company Centene Corporation, Ambetter provides affordable health insurance marketplace plans.
Ambetter Health Insurance offers three main healthcare plans: Ambetter Essential Care (bronze), Ambetter Balanced Care (silver), and Ambetter Secure Care (gold).
Other healthcare plans available are:
- Ambetter Select Plans. Only available in select counties in Florida and Georgia, the select plans offer a low monthly premium and a selective network of providers and hospitals.
- Ambetter Value Plans. Available in select counties in Florida, Nevada, and Texas, the lowest priced premium plans available by Ambetter have specific healthcare professionals and hospitals. They also require referrals to see a specialist.
- Ambetter Virtual Access Plans. These plans are available in Michigan, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. Powered by Teladoc, they provide full virtual primary care with a $0 copay.
The cost and other details of each plan will vary depending on your location. Ambetter is available in 26 states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Ambetter is a great choice if you’re looking for good dental and vision benefits. With some Ambetter plans, your dental program could cost as little as $12 per month. Dental plans are available in all Ambetter markets except Washington, New Mexico, and New Jersey.
The dental plans include preventive and diagnostic dental, basic dental care, and major dental care.
- Offers dental programs that are as low as $12.
- A 24/7 nurses’ line is available.
- Offers health living rewards program on most plans.
- Not available in all 50 states.
- They’re a fairly new company.
- Online customer platform is lacking.
Best for Medicare coverage
If you’re looking for Medicare, Humana is a great option for Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, or a simple standalone prescription drug plan.
Humana Medicare plans are available in every state, while Medicare Advantage is available in most counties. Although not every Medicare Advantage plan includes prescription drug coverage, you can purchase a standalone prescription drug plan or opt for the expanded coverage plans available through Walgreens and Walmart.
You can also enjoy the SilverSneakers program, which offers access to 15,000 gyms and fitness centers across the country. Humana is also known for their Humana Pharmacy mail order prescription options.
- They offer rewards for healthy habits.
- Many plans offer dental, vision, and hearing benefit coverage.
- Great plans are available for people 65 years and older and looking into retirement or Medicare.
- Some plans don’t include prescription drug coverage.
- Short-term plans aren’t available.
- An extra plan is required for coverage when traveling outside the country.
Best for low cost options
As the largest nonprofit health insurance company, Kaiser is a managed care organization that offers individual and family plans as well as Medicare and Medicaid.
If you’re eligible, you can also receive extra benefits with certain plans — things like an exercise program, help with glasses and hearing aids, and an over-the-counter allowance.
Kaiser Permanente also offers charitable health coverage (CHC) if you don’t qualify for public or private coverage. In order to receive CHC, you have to meet certain requirements, such as living in an area that Kaiser Permanente serves and falling below the federal poverty line.
Additionally, if you’re losing coverage soon, the company can help you find personalized recommendations. Some of the qualifying life events include losing job-related coverage, losing coverage on your parent’s plan, and getting divorced. Certain situations may even qualify for financial help that can make costs more affordable.
The majority of U.S. residents cannot access this health insurance option. It is available in:
- Washington, D.C.
- They’re a managed care organization.
- Extra benefits are available, such as an exercise program, help with glasses and hearing aids, and an over-the-counter allowance.
- Low cost options are available.
- They’re only available in eight states.
|Insurance company name||Considerations||Coverage area||Number of providers in network||Benefits|
|Aetna||They do not offer individual health insurance plans.||all 50 states||35,000||vision or dental coverage; telehealth care, free screenings, preventive care, all depending on the plan|
|Blue Cross Blue Shield||Quality is average.||all 50 states||1.7 million||vision or dental, hearing, telehealth care; fitness discounts, over-the-counter medical management, all depending on the plan|
|Cigna||Annual out-of-pocket limits are high.||13 states||varies||vision, dental, or hearing coverage; pharmacy programs and telehealth care, all depending on the plan|
|United||In some cases, claims have to be submitted by the customer.||18 states||1.3 million||vision, dental, or hearing coverage; virtual visits, mental health care, rewards programs, house calls, all depending on the plan|
|Ambetter||Lack of digital tools.||26 states||varies||vision or dental coverage depending on the plan|
|Humana||Short-term plans are not available .||all 50 states||varies||vision, dental, or hearing benefit coverage; prescription drug coverage, and fitness discounts, all depending on the plan|
|Kaiser Permanente||Low cost options are available.||8 states||23,000||vision or dental coverage; an exercise program, help with hearing aids and glasses care, and over-the-counter drug care, all depending on the plan|
Health insurance is an important choice to make, and there are a few key factors to consider when shopping around for a plan.
First, consider affordability. When you decide on a health insurance provider, your monthly premium will stay the same month-to-month regardless of whether you receive medical care. Your out-of-pocket costs will vary when you receive care.
Next, consider the type of health insurance plans offered by a certain insurance company. There are four primary types of Marketplace plans: EPO, HMO, POS, and PPO.
With some plans, medical services will only be covered if you use medical providers that are in network. In other cases, you can use out-of-network care if you pay more. Consider what type of plan would be best for you and whether a given company offers that kind of plan.
Also do some research on what kind of benefits the company provides. Some health insurance plans offer dental and vision benefits. Preventive care and prescriptions are also important to look into.
Customer reviews and ratings should play a role in your decision, as well as what kind of customer service the company offers. And of course, you’ll need to choose an insurance company that provides coverage in the state where you live.
What insurance company has the best benefits?
While many health insurance companies have good benefits, Blue Cross Blue Shield offers some of the best. BCBS customers can enjoy excellent dental or vision benefits with most plans.
What’s a good health insurance deductible?
Your deductible is the amount you’ll have to pay each year for covered healthcare services before your insurance kicks in and covers the rest, leaving you with just a copay.
The average deductible with employer-based coverage for an individual is $1,945. For families, it’s around $3,722.
How do I choose the right health insurance?
You can choose the right health insurance by considering factors that are important to you, such as affordability or the types of plans offered. It’s also important to research customer reviews and ratings to help you pick a good health insurance company. Compare all of your options side-by-side to make your final decision.
If you’re looking for a new health insurance provider, you have plenty of companies to choose from. Use these details and tips to find the right health insurance company and plan for you.
Hailey Hudson is a full-time freelance writer and content marketer based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She focuses in the health, marketing, and education industries. Clients include Livestrong, Runner’s World, Dell, and others. Hailey is also a novelist and a musician.