The best health insurance companies can help cover the cost of any medical treatment that may be necessary, giving you peace of mind that your finances won’t be in jeopardy if an illness or accident left you with hefty medical bills. But how can you be sure that you’re getting the best health insurance plans for your needs?
There are several things you’ll need to consider, not least of which is the cost involved. While opting for affordable health insurance will always be important, you’ll want to strike the right balance between value and coverage, ensuring you’ve got the ideal plan to suit. However, there are some providers that specialize in offering affordable plans to certain demographics, such as seniors or low income families, with Humana or Aetna well worth considering in this regard.
Make sure that your focus on price doesn’t obstruct other considerations, such as the claims process and level of cover. A cheap health insurance plan could turn out to be more expensive in the long run if the cover is lacking or the claims process onerous. Keep in mind the service rating of your potential health insurance company too, together with its financial strength, not to mention its network of doctors and location, as where you live can play a part in the health insurance companies that are available to you.
Yet when it comes to choosing a health insurance policy, the coverage is arguably the most important consideration of all. You’ll need to think about whether you want a full-service plan or something on the lighter end of the scale, which may depend on whether you’ve got separate vision insurance or dental insurance plans elsewhere. Or if you qualify for Medicare, make sure to read up on the best Medicare Part D plans as well.
While there are a lot of top-rated companies to choose from – Blue Cross Shield, Cigna and United Healthcare are just a few of the leading options currently available – each one will have different strengths that makes them perfect for certain individuals. This guide can help you narrow down the options depending on whether you want the best value, are looking for a short-term policy or have a number of other requirements, and we make sure to highlight the best health insurance company overall, too. And, if you want to streamline things even further, we’ve also linked to FirstQuoteHealth beside each provider so you can compare the best health insurance companies with ease.
Best health insurance companies
1. Blue Cross Blue Shield: Best health insurance company overall
The expansive nature of the Blue Cross Blue Shield network works both for and against the company. The vast amount of resources available to customers and its accessibility across all 50 states is a huge plus, and the health insurance provider goes to some lengths to make its customer-facing operations as easy to use as possible.
The fact that customers will be serviced by the local healthcare partner does mean that experiences can vary significantly depending upon which state they live in. These regional differences are definitely a factor in choosing the best health insurance for you, but in general, the fact that Blue Cross Blue Shield is accepted at such a large number of medical facilities is the winning factor. This makes it our top pick when it comes to best health insurance providers.
- Read our Blue Cross Blue Shield review
2. Aetna: Best health insurance company for value
Aetna’s unrivaled history as a top-rated health insurance company puts it in good stead, both in terms of reputation and financial robustness. Both of these factors mean that the health insurance polices offered to customers rate especially well when it comes to value for money.
The quotes received from Aetna regularly came in at a much better price than its main competitors, and its savings plans are also a boon for people looking to manage their healthcare expenses more effectively.
There isn’t too much in the way of downsides, though one small caveat is that Aetna has fewer short-term healthcare policy options than some of the others featured in our guide to the best health insurance companies.
- Read our Aetna review
3. Humana: Best health insurance company for seniors
Humana is ranked the fifth largest health insurance provider in the United States, which means that it has a reassuring amount of financial capital behind it. The policies are relatively affordable, though this one only really applies to their HMO plans. But if you're happy with that and don’t mind a specific range of pharmacy options, Humana health insurance is well worth considering.
Humana's policies for more elderly customers are especially attractive, as many of their competitors hike up their prices substantially for older customers. The fact that Humana doesn't makes it our top pick for seniors.
- Read our Humana review
4. United Healthcare: Best health insurance provider for add-ons
The United Healthcare name is well recognized and the company certainly has the financial muscle to deliver many benefits to its customers. Its premiums are slightly higher than average, but you may feel the extra outlay is worth it to access the huge, nationwide network. That and the many features that come with the very impressive online access and mobile app United Healthcare offers.
In short, it’s worth looking at United Healthcare's plan quotes no matter where you're based, and though you may find that the prices quoted are a touch higher than some of United Healthcare's competitors, the extra features and discounts should be factored in.
- Read our United Healthcare review
5. Molina: Best health insurance company for small budgets
Molina Healthcare is generally very well regarded thanks to its focus on helping underserved populations and lower-income customers. It also runs good wellness services that complement its healthcare offerings, with discounts on weight loss and smoking cessation programs, for example.
Molina’s insurance is available to residents of 15 states, meaning that the network is slightly more limited compared to nationally-available polices. However, premium levels of customer satisfaction levels make it an attractive proposition where it is available. Molina operates a number of physical clinics and health centers in the states where it does operate.
- Read our Molina Healthcare review
6. National General: Best health insurance company for short-term policies
National General’s financial clout and its history in the industry puts it in a good position, and specializing in short-term health insurance plans means that it has become one of the leaders in this field. Although its policies come in at above the industry average in terms of pricing, it's backed up by excellent ratings, additional programs, discounts and flexibility.
National General’s plans are perfect for anyone temporarily without health insurance, whether it's due to an employment situation or missing a sign-up window. Health insurance coverage is also good for routine doctor visits, labs, X-rays, ER visits, ambulance usage and urgent care facilities.
7. Cigna Health Insurance: Best health insurance provider for telehealth
Cigna Health Insurance performs well when compared to many of its competitors, with average premiums, clear and intuitive websites and apps and a good range of added benefits, particularly their commitment to telehealth. The lack of complete nationwide coverage could be a drawback for some people.
However, Cigna performs well in the states within which it has a presence, and has a consistently high level of customer satisfaction. That alone makes it worth considering for potential customers in those specific regions. Cigna's financial health is similarly reassuring.
- Read our Cigna Health Insurance review
8. Kaiser Permanente: Best health insurance company for customer service
Kaiser Permanente stacks up well against its peers, with relatively low premiums easy quotation process, straightforward websites and a well-liked mobile app. The lack of nationwide coverage could be a drawback for some people, even if they live within the coverage area (families that have children attending college out of state, for example) and Kaiser Permanente is definitely one of the more localized health insurance providers.
However, it performs well and has a consistently high level of customer satisfaction, and it is well worth considering for potential customers in those regions and states where it is operational. Kaiser Permanente scored the highest ratings possible in customer satisfaction during the 2017 Health Insurance Plan Study run by JD Power and Associates. Kaiser ranked the highest in six regions, Maryland, South Atlantic, California, Virginia, Northwest and Colorado.
- Read our Kaiser Permanente review
Best health insurance companies FAQ
What to look for in the best health insurance companies
As we mentioned earlier in our guide, there are several things to keep in mind when choosing from the best health insurance companies in America. The most important of these criteria are the financial strength of the provider and the health insurance plans on offer. However, perhaps the most useful factor to you, a potential customer, is the user reviews from existing customers.
You can easily locate these through companies that aggregate verified user reviews, such as the Better Business Bureau, and they will give you a good insight into what it’s like being a customer of the health insurance company you’re thinking of signing with.
Other criteria to keep in mind include specific policy offerings, as well as the claims service. Some of the best health insurance companies are so rated because they make the claims process easier. In contrast, other health insurance providers may offer cheaper plans but the claims process is overly complex.
Based on our experience, this is what to look for when choosing from the best health insurance companies:
- Does the provider operate in your state / where you live?
- What is the financial strength rating of the provider?
- Is the company well-rated by existing customers?
- Does it have an easy to understand claims process?
- Does the company have a clear plan pricing policy?
- Are you able to obtain a hassle-free quote?
- Does the company offer a broad range of health insurance plans?
When is open enrollment for 2021 health insurance?
This depends on whether you’re buying Medicare coverage, selecting a health insurance option from the HealthCare Marketplace, or you are choosing a policy via your employer.
If you’re buying a health insurance plan through your employer, speak to your company's human resources department about the enrollment period as private companies can set their own deadlines.
The HealthCare Marketplace enrollment period begins on November 1st and ends on December 15th. If you have just reached your 65th birthday, the enrollment period for Medicare stays open to you for seven months. After that, the annual enrollment begins on October 15th through December 7th.
How do I obtain a health insurance quote?
If your employer does not offer an affordable health insurance option and you do not qualify for subsidized insurance or Medicare, you can shop the open market for medical insurance. The health insurance companies we reviewed will allow you to request a quote online rather easily. Premium rates vary significantly by multiple factors. You'll learn that the monthly rates increase quite a bit as you age. Smoking also increases the premium rate. In most cases you can select non-smoking if you have not smoked in over six months.
Services such as eHealthInsurance are simple to use and provide a variety of quotes but may not always show every option available. You may find more plan options by requesting plan information directly from the insurance company's website. Before purchasing new insurance it is always a good idea to ensure that your preferred doctor accepts the insurance you are looking to purchase. While your doctor may be listed on the insurance company's website, it is smart to call your doctor's office directly to verify.
Even if the open-enrollment period has passed for signing up for insurance via one of the exchanges, you might still be able to purchase subsidized insurance if you've had a qualifying life event. Qualifying events include moving to a new state, change in income, change in family, loss of coverage and others.
You may even be able to apply simply because you did not understand that open-enrollment ended or you did not understand the health care law. If your income qualifies you for subsidized health care, you'll want to purchase through your state exchange.
Key health insurance numbers to consider
Average bronze-level health insurance plan: $2,570 per year for individual insurance.
Shared responsibility payment: $325 per adult and $162.50 per child (up to $975 for a family), or 2 percent of your household income, above the tax return filing threshold for your filing status – whichever is greater.
Cost of non-subsidized, individual health insurance: $300 - $600 per month, or $3,600 - $7,200 per year.
How to compare the best health insurance companies and plans
Even plans of the best health insurance companies can vary greatly. But the general rule of thumb is that the less you pay per month, the higher your deductible is. Higher premiums are usually associated with lower deductibles. Generally it is beneficial for those with existing health issues to opt to pay more per month and less out-of-pocket for services.
Those in good health often opt for a high deductible option in hopes that they never have to actually pay the deductible but would mostly be covered if something major happened.
A prescription plan is another important consideration when looking for the best health insurance. If you need to take medications regularly you'll want to choose a plan with a good prescription plan. If you need to insure your entire family, you'll want to look at family deductibles and maximums. Only full-coverage options will satisfy the minimal essential health care insurance required to get around paying the fine.
This is your monthly payment for health insurance. It may be worth asking if you can get discounts for paying in advance or if you set up direct payments from your bank account.
The amount you are required to pay, not counting preventive care, before the insurance company starts paying out. Low-deductible plans offer deductibles of about $500, whereas high-deductible plans might be as much as $6600.
This is the maximum you'll have to pay out-of-pocket. Sometimes this is more than the deductible. It is not uncommon to have a deductible of $1200 and a maximum out-of-pocket limit of $1500. This of course does not count your premiums.
Preventive Care Covered
Most insurance policies now cover preventive-care visits 100 percent. However, some may limit the number of checkups or how often certain procedures such as mammograms are covered.
If you need to take maintenance medications you'll want to find an insurance plan with an above-average prescription plan. You should check to see if it covers the medications you are currently taking satisfactorily or if it covers suitable generics.
In-Network vs. Out-of-Network Coverage
While in-network providers are discounted, you usually pay significantly more for out-of-network health care. This is a good reason to contact your primary doctors to ensure they are preferred providers.
Types of Plans Available
While looking for insurance you many notice a wide variety of plans. Some may provide coverage for a large selection of doctors whereas others may provide increased coverage to preferred providers.
What are the different types of health insurance plan?
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
This type of insurance provides better coverage to providers within their network. Usually the insurance company and the provider have agreed in advance to the billing costs for common procedures. Out-of-network providers, or those without an agreement, might not be covered or will cost the patient more out-of-pocket.
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
With an HMO plan, you have to work with one primary doctor and all additional procedures or testing is routed through them. You have to have a referral from your primary doctor before seeing a specialist unless it is an emergency situation.
Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)
This type of plan limits the network of doctors and hospitals covered in order to help control costs. Out-of-network doctors and hospitals are not covered at all.
Point of Service (POS)
These types of plans are a mixture of HMO and PPO. You would need to use a primary doctor to coordinate your care, but there is more freedom to visit the health care provider of your choosing. If you visit a provider outside of the network, you have to pay the bill and then submit a claim to the insurance company for partial reimbursement.
High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)
These types of plans usually have lower monthly premiums but higher deductibles. In many cases the deductible is $6,600.
Flexible Spending & Health Savings Accounts
These are not insurance plans, but ways of assisting with medical costs with pre-tax money. Often these accompany a high-deductible plan in order to help cover the high deductible easier. Flexible spending accounts are often use-it-or-lose-it, but health savings accounts typically can roll over to the next year.
Short-term medical plans are designed to fill the gap between insurance coverage. So if you are going to be changing jobs, for example, and might have a gap before your new insurance takes over, short-term might help you.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, more commonly known as Obamacare, impacted healthcare in the United States in numerous ways. The act's effects vary by person, but you'll need to have health insurance for at least nine months out of every 12 or be subject to a tax. There are exceptions to this rule based on financial hardship, your income and living situation. But in general, whether it's through Obamacare or not, you should have health insurance.
Non-compliant options to consider
If you decide to opt out instead of acquiring compliant health insurance, you do have a few options. These options probably won't qualify to relieve you of having to pay the shared responsibility payment, but they can still lower your health care costs. Many insurance companies offer short-term insurance plans that might help you between coverage periods or after losing insurance.
Catastrophic insurance usually has a high deductible, but can help if you need expensive treatment. Another option is Direct Primary Care (DPC) or "concierge medicine." These are not standard insurance models but involve a direct payment to the provider as an annual fee or retainer for services. This type of arrangement is not common, but it's an option for some. Boutique offices are becoming increasingly popular as well.
These medical practices do not bother with insurance and simply make cash-price arrangements with patients. Many offer quite competitive rates for routine services. However, keep in mind that this alternative option does not satisfy the requirement to have minimal compliant health insurance and that you may need to pay the fine unless you are somehow otherwise exempt.
While obtaining suitable health insurance requires a bit of effort, health insurance is now affordable to more Americans than before. Increasing the parental coverage to 26 years old and introducing the medical exchanges has helped, especially for younger Americans who can now acquire affordable coverage.
It only takes a few minutes using our health insurance tools to discover the plans available in your area. To find the best plan for your specific needs, we recommend comparing plans from at least three insurance companies that offer coverage in your area.
Do you need health insurance if you're healthy?
If you find yourself unable to remember the last time you were in a doctor’s office and think you don’t need health insurance, think again. You should definitely have health insurance, and there are plans that are cost effective for healthy people. For example, you can opt for a high deductible health insurance plan – you pay more for things like doctor visits, but you pay less overall for your health insurance plan.
This is ideal if you only go to the doctor once or twice a year. These plans also work well in partnership with flexible spending accounts (FSA) or health savings accounts (HSA). You can put pre-tax dollars into these accounts and use the money later on medical expenses.
Even if you consider yourself healthy, it’s important to see a doctor on occasion for a checkup. U.S. News and World Report says if you can't remember the last time you went, it has definitely been too long. You should also go for a checkup if anything has changed since the last time you saw a doctor.
Are you coughing more than usual? Is that mole bigger? Even minor things can reflect larger underlying health problems. The earlier you catch any health problem, the better. An annual checkup can help with that. There are also age-related milestone checkups you shouldn't skip like an annual mammogram for women starting at age 40 or a colon cancer screening starting at age 50.
These are some of the many reasons it’s important to have health insurance, as many plans cover preventative health screening services. Depending on the company and the checkup, you might not have to pay anything out of pocket.