Best & Worst Medicare Advantage Plans 2020

Because you deserve the best possible Medicare coverage.

So you’ve weighed the pros and cons of original Medicare and a Medicare Advantage plan. If you’ve decided that a Medicare Advantage plan is right for you, then you naturally want the best plan out there. Luckily, annual research shows that some companies regularly rise above the fray to offer the best plans with the best service. This article will discuss who’s getting high marks, and show you how to compare plans.

Methodology: J.D. Power U.S. Medicare Advantage Study

In June 2020, J.D. Power & Associates released a new study evaluating the best and worst medicare advantage providers. The main takeaway: most providers can improve their communication skills. The most common communication problem is the inability to explain how their plan works and how they’ll be expected to pay for services.

J.D. Power researchers based their rankings on six factors:

  1. Coverage and Benefits, 29 percent of the grade
  2. Provider Choice, 17 percent of the grade
  3. Cost, 15 percent of the grade
  4. Customer Service, 14 percent of the grade
  5. Information and Communication, 13 percent of the grade
  6. Billing and Payment, 12 percent of the grade

Four providers met or exceeded the industry average, and those are the providers we have included here. 

#1 Best Medicare Advantage Plan: Highmark

Score: 830 out of 1,000

Available in: Parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware

Highmark Overview

Highmark is part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield family, and it’s devoted to customer care. For years, Highmark has received top marks by customers and independent agencies alike. Customers enjoy the vast array of Medicare Advantage plans that Highmark offers—making it very easy to find a plan that fits your health needs and your budget. Additionally, Highmark offers prescription drug plans, also known as Medicare part D, and supplemental insurance plans, also known as Medigap

Low to no premiums, lower copays, and some flat-rate fees make Highmark plans very affordable. Most claims are sorted through without any additional action needed from customers. 

On the downside, Highmark has a small service area. Even if you live in an area where Highmark is available, you may have trouble finding in-network providers. 

Runner-Up Medicare Plan: Kaiser Foundation Health Plan

Score: 829 out of 1,000

Available in: Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., parts of California and Colorado

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Overview

Narrowly missing first place, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan gets high marks for customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power. Many customers see the not-for-profit status of Kaiser as a good thing. However, Kaiser is also a provider of healthcare services, which can call into question whether conflicts of interest occur in services. 

Despite this possibility, monthly premium and care costs at Kaiser remain low and customers are happy. One of the benefits of choosing Kaiser is the ease of service, as any Kaiser hospital takes your plan. Kaiser also offers a range of Medicare Advantage plans in each location. 

Customers will find a range of Medicare Advantage programs in addition to prescription drug coverage and supplemental insurance plans

Third Place Medicare Plan: Humana

Score: 806 out of 1,000

Available in: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming

Humana Overview

While the state you’re in will ultimately determine the type of plans available to you, Humana offers options everywhere. Humana also offers a wide range of options and extended medicare options, like supplemental Medicare insurance. 

Perhaps one of the reasons Humana excels in Medicare is for its beginnings as a nursing home company. The company is also known for revolutionizing the construction of hospitals, placing nurse support services in the center of floors with patient rooms surrounding. 

History aside, Humana offers a ton of options for Medicare and Medicare Supplements. A wide array of options also means a wide variety of price points, meaning most seniors will find a plan that fits their needs. 

Fourth Place Medicare Plan: UnitedHealthcare

Score: 800 out of 1,000

Available in: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

UnitedHealthcare Overview

Skimming along the industry average, UnitedHealthcare is one of the largest health care providers in the nation. Their large size means a large group of in-network physicians and facilities. But the size doesn’t get customers everything.

Despite improvements over the last few years, UnitedHealthcare still has trouble when it comes to customer relationships. Whether through inadequate customer service or unclear coverage terms, customers report more instances of denied claims and billing issues. 

Even so, the trend is toward improvement. Back in 2017, UnitedHealthcare received a score of 716. Even earlier, several issues in UnitedHealthcare’s medicare policies resulted in delays or denials of coverage (especially mental health coverage) and possible overbilling of the U.S. Government—a lawsuit that has yet to be concluded.

Our advice: access to an extensive network of providers can be critical to getting the right care. UnitedHealthcare has been responsive to complaints and issues, and we expect customer service to continue to improve. If it makes sense for you to choose UnitedHealthcare, you’ll still be making a good choice.

Just be prepared to keep just-in-case records in regards to your bills and claims. 

 

FAQ: Best Medicare Plans of 2020

I want more Medicare Advantage options—what should I do? 

That’s okay: there are still well-qualified providers in your area. To compare providers quickly and easily, enter your zip code into the eHealth Medicare comparison tool at eHealthMedicare.com. You’ll receive ten or more plans available to you in your area.  Even better, select a few plans and compare them in a side-by-side chart to make everything crystal clear. How’s that for informative?

What is Medicare Advantage?

Medicare Advantage, sometimes called Medicare part C or MA plans, is a medicare plan offered by a private health insurance company. Original Medicare, also called Medicare Part A and Part B, is administered by the federal government. Medicare Advantage plans were created to give more options to seniors. There are many different kinds of plan options.  There are many advantages to using a private insurance company to fulfill your health insurance needs. However, many seniors also enjoy Original Medicare, but ad Medicare supplement insurance to cover costs for certain health conditions or for other reasons. 

Should I get an HMO or PPO Medicare Advantage plan?

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans have benefits and drawbacks. Ultimately, you will need to decide which is best for you based on what’s available and your personal preferences.  With a Medicare HMO plan, you will be required to use medical services within your plan’s network. You will need to choose a primary care physician, who will be able to refer you to specialists. You will need referrals to get all but some medical services covered by your health insurance. Exceptions include services like your annual mammogram.  With a Medicare PPO plan, you can expect lower out-of-pocket costs for using in-network providers. However, you will have more options to choose out-of-network providers. Bear in mind that out-of-network providers usually means higher copayment or coinsurance costs. With a PPO, you won’t be required to have a primary care physician, and you will be able to see specialists without a referral.  

Do I need a Medicare prescription drug plan?

Also known as Part D coverage, a Medicare prescription drug plan is a good idea for many seniors. Chances are that you’ll need to take a prescription on a regular basis at some point in your life. Parts A and B do not cover prescriptions, and neither does Part C.  Many Medicare Advantage providers offer a Part D plan in addition to your health insurance. 

Where can I find more information about Medicare plans?

You can find up-to-date information about Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans at Medicare.gov, which has an extensive plan finder. You will also find information about the COVID-19 pandemic there. Additional information about COVID-19 can be found at Coronavirus.gov. Additional information about Medicare can be found at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services website: CMS.gov. 

When is open enrollment for Medicare?

Medicare open enrollment is from October 15 to December 7, every year. 

Conclusion: Communication Is (Almost) Everything

If we are going to take anything away from the research at J.D. Power, it’s that clear and thoughtful communication is rare in the industry. If you have to choose between two similar plans, choose a provider with a good communication strategy. You should be able to get in contact with your provider in at least three ways to ensure lines of communication are always open.

And don’t forget to use eHealth Medicare to compare plans. This free service makes it easy to shop, compare, and buy your next Medicare Advantage plan fast and easy. Try it today!

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Updated July 24, 2020

J.J. Starr is a financial copywriter and enjoys helping readers find the information they need. In addition to her background in banking and financial advising, she is also a poet with an MFA from New York University. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. You can learn more at jjstarrwrites.com.