Medicare enrollment can often be confusing, and the addition of Medicare Advantage plans only adds to the confusion. Do you simply enroll in Original Medicare, do you add a prescription drug plan, or do you sign up for an Advantage plan? Medicare Advantage plans have many benefits. They allow you to manage all your health care plans in a single place, and many of them provide additional coverage outside of regular Medicare benefits. Since the providers are private insurance companies, they get to set their monthly premiums, copayment amounts, and deductibles in most cases. So, how do you decide which plan is right for you? You need to consider many factors, so keep reading as we give you the best Medicare Advantage plans for 2022.
Best Medicare Advantage Plans Of 2022
Medicare Advantage plans allow you to combine the coverage of Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, and prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D) into a single program. These plans are sometimes still referred to as Medicare Part C plans. They are managed and maintained by private insurance companies who contract with Medicare. As such, these companies get to decide on the coverage details for most of these plans. There are many factors that you need to consider when deciding which one is the best fit for your situation.
First, you should take a look at the monthly premiums. Some plans have no premium, while others have higher premiums. Deductible amounts and copays play a big role in your decision as well. If you rarely visit the doctor, then a higher deductible might be OK in your situation. Make sure that you take a look at the covered services that are part of the plan, as that can greatly affect your out-of-pocket costs.
Another consideration you should take into account when examining these plans is their health care provider network. If your doctors are not in the network of the health plan, then it will likely not be a good choice for you. Finally, many of these insurance plans provide extra benefits that might not typically be included in regular Medicare coverage. For example, the plan might provide dental coverage or vision coverage. If those are things that you need, then you should try to find a plan that provides them.
It is also important to review the plan’s star rating before enrolling. Each year, the Center For Medicare and Medicaid Services releases a rating for each Medicare Advantage plan. The rating system uses a scale of one to five stars, and the ratings are based on the experiences of people who are enrolled in those plans. One star equals poor performance, while a five-star rating equals excellent performance. While we are unable to know your specific situation, here is our list of the best Medicare Advantage plans for 2022.
Best Overall: Aetna
Aetna is the fourth-largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans in the country. There are many great benefits provided by Aetna plans that make it our top overall pick. One of the biggest things that put them at the top of our list is the amount of educational material available about their plans. This material covers Medicare basics, Medicare coverage issues, choosing a Medicare plan, and many other topics.
In addition to the great educational material, Aetna has a large network of providers. More than likely, you will be able to find several providers in your service area who you could visit as part of this plan. Aetna also offers several different plan options, such as HMO (health maintenance organization) and PPO. Some of these plans have no premium, while others have premiums but provide additional benefits.
Annual wellness visits are included in these plans, as are hearing and vision checkups and Part D coverage. The Silver Sneakers program as part of these plans also allows you to receive free or discounted gym memberships. Aetna also provides dual special needs plans for those who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid coverage.
If you choose to enroll, the Aetna plans offer access to many additional perks and benefits like over-the-counter medicines and home meal delivery after a stay in the hospital. Aetna makes it easy to search and find coverage as well as providers in your area. You can even get access to concierge services that will assist you with finding providers in your area. Lastly, Aetna is currently rated at 3.8 stars, so its customer satisfaction is fairly high. This is a great overall option for Medicare beneficiaries who choose to enroll in an Advantage plan.
Best For Network Size: UnitedHealthcare
If you are looking for a plan with a large network of providers, then UnitedHealthcare is your best option. In fact, United has over one million providers in their network across the country. They have several coverage options and give you the ability to choose a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan if you need it. These PPO plans give you better coverage for out-of-network visits.
UnitedHealthcare also partners with AARP to insure all products with the AARP name, and this partnership provides several great bonuses to new members. In addition, you can receive telehealth visits with no copay and annual in-home wellness exams. Many add-on benefits are available, like mental health coverage, free gym memberships, and coverage for over-the-counter items and medication.
While the network size is a huge plus to the UnitedHealthcare plans, customer satisfaction has declined in recent years. Their customer satisfaction is lower than the industry standard, according to a recent J.D. Power survey. However, they are still rated an average of 4.2 Medicare stars according to the annual report at www.medicare.gov. This means that most people enrolled in their plans have a good experience and are satisfied overall with their plan.
Best For Member Satisfaction: Kaiser Permanente
When it comes to member satisfaction, Kaiser is the hands-down favorite. It received an average of five stars in the latest Medicare ratings. In fact, only 7 Medicare plans received a full five stars from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, and four of those were Kaiser plans. That speaks to how much customers love the company and their health plans.
Though many people have not heard of Kaiser, they are the 5th largest provider of Medicare plans in the country. They have nearly 2 million members enrolled in their plans, and they have several different options available. Many of their plans have a zero deductible, so you get cost-sharing benefits right away as soon as you enroll. Enrollees may also choose to add hearing, vision, and dental benefits to their plan.
There are a couple of drawbacks to the Kaiser plans. First, they are somewhat expensive compared to many of the plans out there. Monthly premiums average about $50, but many people are willing to pay a little more each month to receive more affordable health services. Their copays are extremely affordable, with a doctor visit costing only about $15 and an emergency room visit usually costing less than $100. When it comes to HMO plans, these copays and deductibles are very affordable.
The other drawback is the availability of the plans and the size of their network. Currently, these plans are only available in eight states and the District of Columbia. The plan’s network is also limited to Kaiser’s medical centers and hospitals. It makes it easy to manage your health care because all your medical records and insurance information can be managed and maintained in a single place. However, it limits the availability of in-network providers, and this can especially be a problem if you frequently travel outside of their service area.
Best For Low-Cost Plans: Humana
If you need a lost-cost plan, then Humana likely has an offering that will work for you. They offer many plans that have a zero-dollar premium, and these plans are available in 47 different states. That is even lower than the regular Medicare Part B premium itself. The company even states that over half of its members are enrolled in a zero-premium plan. Their service area covers more Americans than any other plan in the country.
In addition to zero premiums, Humana plans also offer some of the lowest out-of-pocket maximums in the market. Many of their plans have an out-of-pocket limit of only $2,200. Their plans are also highly rated. Some have received a full five stars, and these five-star plans have special enrollment periods. This means that if you did not sign up for a five-star plan during the regular open enrollment period, you could still switch to that plan during the special enrollment.
Even though these plans are low cost, they still provide many great benefits like Silver Sneakers, gym membership, acupuncture, massage, mental health care, and exercise class availability. Humana also has some of the best customer satisfaction scores for mail-in prescription drugs. Their overall customer satisfaction rates with all their different types of Medicare Advantage plans are slightly above the industry average. If you need a health care plan that is low cost and provides access to many great benefits, then Humana is definitely worth a look. One of the few drawbacks of Humana is its access to special needs plans. Access to these plans is fairly limited, so if this is something that you need, then you might choose to look elsewhere.
Best For Bonuses & Perks: Cigna
If you are looking for plans that include bonuses and additional benefits, then Cigna has you covered. In addition to traditional coverage, Cigna offers plans that provide many added benefits. They include many of the traditional perks like vision, dental, hearing, and fitness memberships. But, they also include some extra bonuses like meal delivery, health and wellness discounts, and allowances for over-the-counter items like medicine and vitamins.
Cigna also has a customer satisfaction score higher than the industry average and a complete suite of online tools that allow you to manage your account, find educational materials, and get help. They also provide 24/7 access to telehealth services, so you can have a doctor available no matter the time of day.
Some Cigna plans can be a little more expensive than many mentioned above, but the bonuses can make up for it. They also have plans with zero premiums, so they have cheaper options if you need them.
Types Of Medicare Advantage Plans
There are a few different types of Medicare Advantage plans, and some are much more common than others. The most common types of plans are the health maintenance organization (HMO) and preferred provider organization (PPO) plans. There are some differences between these two plans. With an HMO, you are usually limited to the providers within the network. Your insurance company will provide you with a list of doctors and facilities that are in their network. If you choose to receive care at a facility that is out of the network, then you will likely be required to pay for the entire bill out of pocket.
A PPO plan is similar but not quite as rigid. In-network providers with a PPO plan agree to accept contracted rates for their services. You will typically see lower copays and deductibles when using a provider that is in your network. If you choose to visit an out-of-network provider, then your costs will be higher. However, you will probably not be stuck with the entire bill. That provider might charge more for their service, and your insurance policy might not cover as much of the bill. However, your policy generally will still cover a portion of the bill, but you probably will have a higher copay and deductible when the provider is outside your network.
Another type of plan is the Special Needs Plan or SNP. These plans are typically geared toward individuals in a couple of different situations. First, if you have a chronic condition like diabetes, these plans can offer great benefits that will help you with the cost of treatments. These plans are also commonly offered to individuals who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. You might even have a health care professional or social worker who recommends one of these plans to you if you find yourself in that situation. They can be a great way to manage all your health care needs from both programs in a single spot.
Private Fee-For-Service (PFFS) plans are not as common, and they may or may not include a provider network. If they do, then out-of-network providers are generally required to accept both Medicare reimbursement and your plan policy’s details. These plans do not usually include prescription drug coverage. You do not have to choose a primary care doctor, and you do not need a referral to see specialists under these plans. However, you will want to make sure that your doctor or hospital agrees to treat you under this plan and agrees to accept the payment laid out in the plan for the service. You should verify this before obtaining treatment, as you might otherwise be stuck with a bill that is larger than you expect.
A Medical Savings Account (MSA) is another type of plan that is not very common. For those who are familiar with employer-sponsored health insurance plans, this would be similar to a Health Savings Account used with a high-deductible plan. Money is deposited into the account each month, and then that money can be used for qualified medical expenses like coinsurance payments or other items.
Finally, HMO Point-Of-Service (POS) plans are another type of Medicare Advantage plan that you might find available. These plans offer a type of hybrid HMO plan, making it more similar to a PPO. With a traditional HMO, you can only visit in-network providers. However, the POS plan allows you to visit providers outside your network if you are willing to pay more for the service. These plans typically have separate deductibles for in-network versus out-of-network care.
In addition to these plans, many people decide to purchase a Medicare Supplement insurance plan. These plans are typically purchased in place of a Medicare Advantage plan. For those who decide to enroll in Original Medicare, these supplement plans can offer many additional benefits like dental and vision coverage or help with out-of-pocket expenses. Similarly, Medigap plans can help offset the costs of copays and deductibles, and those plans often provide additional coverage that is not offered by Original Medicare.
How To Choose The Best Medicare Advantage Plan
Once you are eligible for Medicare, you might be dreading the daunting task of selecting a plan. There are a few steps that you need to take to find and enroll in the best Medicare Advantage plan for your situation. You should make sure that you consider the various factors that will affect your costs and the health care options that you have. Here is how you should choose the best plan.
- Find Plans Available In Your Area
Remember that most plans are only available in certain geographic regions. Some providers have plans that cover almost all 50 states, while others might only cover a handful of states. You are wasting your time if you are comparing plans that are not even available for you to purchase, so your first step needs to be identifying the options that are available in your area. You can use Medicare’s Plan Finding Tool to help you with your search.
- Identify Key Coverage Elements
Next, you will want to identify the coverage elements that are most crucial to your personal situation. Perhaps you need great prescription drug coverage, but you are not as interested in dental benefits. Maybe you need hearing and vision benefits but are not as concerned about the telehealth benefits that are available. Once you decide on the options that are important to you, you can begin to narrow down the plans based on the coverage options provided by each.
- Compare Plan Costs
Take a look at the overall cost of each plan. Remember that this includes monthly premiums as well as copays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs. Plans that carry a higher premium often have lower costs when it comes to receiving services, so you can use this information to help make a decision based on your history and the services that you typically use.
- Review Star Ratings
Take a look at the plan’s star rating that is published by Medicare. Try to find a plan that has at least 3.5 stars. Anything below that rating will likely leave you dissatisfied with the plan and service that you receive. If you find two plans that are similar from a cost and coverage perspective, then the rating might be the difference-maker.
- Talk To A Licensed Insurance Agent
Navigating the different options available can be difficult and confusing. It is often worth talking to an insurance agent to help you through the process. These agents are paid directly from the insurance company once you enroll, so you should never pay them directly for their services when it comes to Medicare. They can assist you with calculating the total cost of plans, and they can explain the differences in coverage between different plans. An agent can be an extremely valuable asset when making your plan selection.
- Enroll In The Plan
Finally, once you have decided on the plan that is right for you, go ahead and sign up. If you missed the open enrollment period, then you can check to see if that specific plan has a special enrollment period for which you can qualify. If not, then you will have to wait until the annual open enrollment period rolls around again. Once you get signed up, you should receive your insurance cards in the mail and can start using your new plan.
Average Cost Of Medicare Advantage Plans
The cost of Medicare Advantage plans varies based on the plan type and coverage details. Some plans do not require a monthly premium to be paid, while others have more expensive premiums but lower copays and deductibles. On average, most people pay about $20 per month for a Medicare Advantage plan. You will find that some plans cost as much as $50 per month, but they generally include many benefits and lower costs for services.
The Bottom Line
There are many different Medicare Advantage plans out there, and each has its own pros and cons. When it comes to selecting a plan, you should determine the one that is right for you based on your personal situation. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to health care. Take a look at the plan’s overall costs and the availability of providers, and pick the one that best fits you and your health care needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best Medicare advantage plan?
Aetna is often considered one of the best Medicare Advantage plan providers on the market today. They have low costs, higher customer satisfaction, and a wide network of providers. In addition, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna also offer great plans and have millions of members enrolled. The best plan is really the one that works best for you, so it needs to be specific to your needs.
What is the difference between Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Supplemental Plans?
Medicare Advantage Plans allow you to manage your Part A, Part B, and Part D coverage together in a single plan. You can also purchase additional services like dental or vision coverage. On the other hand, Medicare Supplemental plans are purchased in conjunction with Original Medicare. These plans are separate, but they provide additional benefits like the aforementioned dental and vision coverage.
What isn’t covered by a Medicare Advantage Plan?
It depends on the details of the specific plan. Some plans include dental and vision coverage, while some do not. Other plans might include gym memberships or hearing benefits, while some plans do not. Typically, nursing home care is not covered by any of the plans. For specific coverage details and questions, you would need to check the details of your policy.
Why are some Medicare Advantage Plans free?
Some Medicare Advantage plans follow the cost-sharing model that provides for zero monthly premiums. These plans usually include higher deductibles and copayments. This means that it will cost you more when you visit the doctor or have a medical service performed. Plans that charge higher premiums often allow you to receive treatments at a lower cost.
What is the difference between a Medicare Advantage Plan and a Medigap Plan?
Medicare Advantage Plans allow you to manage your Part A, Part B, and Part D coverage together in a single plan. You can also purchase additional services like dental or vision coverage. Medigap plans exist to help you with out-of-pocket expenses or items not covered by Medicare. These plans are purchased by people enrolled in Original Medicare. Medigap plans can help with copayments, deductibles, or payment for a service that is not covered by Medicare.