Which medical plan is best?
An impressive 36 Aetna Medicare Advantage plans sold in 30 states, plus the District of Columbia, received top NCQA ratings (4.0 or greater) in 2021, with Connecticut and Maine being standouts.1 In 2020, Aetna Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans were made available in 264 new counties across the country, providing millions more Medicare beneficiaries access to an Aetna plan.2
The insurer also sells Medicare supplement plans (Medigap) in all 50 states. In addition to these, they also offer a combination dental, vision, and hearing supplemental Medicare product in many states.
In the private arena, Aetna is a large provider of employer-based health insurance. A total of five Aetna plans serving Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island made the top NCQA ranks in 2021, and the 2021 J.D. Power U.S. Commercial Health Plan Study ranked Aetna plans second-highest in Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia.13 In addition, Aetna’s pricing seems to be lower than many competitors’ pricing.
In November 2018, Aetna became part of CVS Health Company, and synergies between the two are beginning to emerge. For example, Aetna medical plan subscribers with high blood pressure can get a free home monitor at CVS. Chronic disease monitoring may also be available at CVS stores. One out of three Americans has health coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield. The names on various state plans include Anthem, CareFirst, Highmark, Independence, and Wellmark, but the 35 independent and locally operated Blue Cross Blue Shield companies open doors in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. Nationwide, more than 1.7 million doctors and hospitals contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield companies—more than any other insurer, according to the company.
It’s not surprising that a company that sells a product called Global Health Advantage would lead our list for international coverage. This global health service company has 17 million medical customers worldwide served by a global network of 1.5 million healthcare professionals with access to doctors in 30+ countries.
It has more than 70,000 employees. Cigna followed on the heels of Aetna and CVS Health in 2018 by partnering with Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager, in a deal aimed at lowering costs and improving care.
In the U.S., six Cigna plans received a four-star rating in 2021.1
However, Cigna was a top performer in customer satisfaction in Illinois/Indiana, Virginia, New Jersey, and Ohio in the 2021 U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study by J.D. Power, it was ranked among the worst in its industry for member satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) in 2020.35
Cigna sells medical plans in 13 states and dental plans in all 50, plus D.C. It sells individual plans on healthcare.gov in 313 counties across 13 states. Cigna also expanded its Medicare Advantage plans in 2021 to reach a total of 477 counties across 26 states (plus D.C.), adding coverage in three new states for 2022.
Health insurance policies don’t usually cover such expenses as eyeglasses and contacts; or dental exams, crowns, and appliances. Humana, a broad-based health and well-being company, sells private policies in all these areas, and the company has a range of plans for people living with chronic conditions that include transitions from a hospital stay to home care and meal delivery.
Humana is also among the companies that offer special needs policies for people with a severe or disabling chronic condition or living in a long-term care facility. As of 2018, Humana no longer offers individual medical plans but focuses on healthcare solutions for employers and offers Medicare plans.
Twenty-four Humana plans received a four-star or better rating from the NCQA in 2021.1 Humana led the pack for customer satisfaction among health insurers in 2020, according to data from the ACSI survey.5 Humana’s policies for HMOs are relatively affordable.
How We Chose the Best Health Insurance Companies?
We examined the 126 health insurance plans that were top-rated by NCQA, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a non-profit rating group, and aggregated them by insurance company. We then narrowed the list to companies with highly-rated plans available in multiple states. To make the best list, most companies also had to have at least an A- financial rating from AM Best, Fitch, or Standard & Poor’s.
We then took a qualitative look at our nine highly rated companies to identify special strengths that might appeal to the priorities of different types of consumers. We examined how the companies were rated in NCQA subcategories in the 2020 ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) survey of roughly 500,000 consumers and in the 2021 J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey of 32,066 commercial health plan members. We looked at company profiles and Top Ten Reviews to evaluate the depth and breadth of the company’s coverage offerings and pricing for individual.
We also looked at availability—the number of doctors, hospitals, and medical systems that contract with (or accept) a particular insurance company’s coverage—and types of coverage offered. And we considered where these insurance companies operate and whether plans can be purchased on healthcare.gov.
Pricing was an important factor in our consideration, and lastly, we considered the number of plans offered and what sort of coverage limits consumers were able to choose from while shopping around for their health insurance.