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How to choose the best health insurance company

Choosing a health insurance plan is vital both to your health and your financial well-being. You want to think about your upcoming health care needs, your financial situation and what you want from a health plan.

Here’s how to find the best health insurance company and plan for you:

  • Figure out your health insurance eligibility, including whether you can get a plan through an employer, individual health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Check out Best Health Insurance Companies reviews. See which companies members rate highly and which aspects they like and dislike.
  • Check the company’s A.M. Best financial rating Better Business Bureau rating and consumer complaints.
  • Look at the premium costs, as well as out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles and coinsurance.
  • Think about what you want from a health plan. Do you prefer lower premiums with higher deductibles? Or are higher premiums and lower deductibles better for you? These decisions help you narrow down your options.
  • Do you want a larger provider network (like a PPO) or are you OK with a restricted network (like an HMO)? Do you want to go outside of your plan’s provider network or are you OK staying within that network? Do you mind getting a referral to see a specialist or is that too burdensome? These network decisions play a role in costs. The more flexibility you want, the more you’ll pay in premiums.
  • Check provider networks to ensure your providers and hospitals are considered in-network. Also, see if there are many specialists and hospitals in your area that take the health plan. You never know when you might need other care, so it’s a good idea to see if you have a large provider network nearby.
  • Dig into the prescription drug coverage to make sure your prescriptions are covered and see how much you would have to pay for the medications.
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Kaiser Permanente

The Oakland, CA-based Kaiser Permanente topped the best health insurance company list this year with members praising price and customer service.

Kaiser Permanente has more than 12 million members with 39 hospitals and more than 700 medical offices. It finished fourth in Insure’s 2020 Best Health Insurance Companies.

In the 2021 survey, Kaiser Permanente ranked highly with Generation X. Gen Xers rated it tops overall, as well as for price, customer service and website/app.

The insurer additionally tied with Humana for top health plan overall among Baby Boomers.

Pros:

Kaiser Permanente is an integrated health system that incorporates health insurance with providers and hospitals under one umbrella, which can make it easier to navigate the health care system. In our survey, members praised Kaiser Permanente’s doctors and ease of navigating the health system.

Members also liked the insurer’s price and customer service.

A whopping 87% of Kaiser Permanente members said they recommend the health insurer. That was number one this year.

Kaiser Permanente Medicare Advantage plans also received five stars (the highest rating) from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Cons:

Not available in most states.

People who like a wide provider network may prefer a plan with a national footprint.

Ninety percent of members surveyed said they plan to renew with the company, which was in the bottom half of results.

Some feedback from members surveyed include:

“Doctors are the best, great price and fast customer service.”

“Always amazing customer service, easy to make appointments. Flexible pay.”

“Kaiser is all in house, no waiting by mail for a referral to see a podiatrist, your primary doctor makes the referral right there in the computer, and it's that fast!”

“They have taken very good care of me for over 30 years.”

“Kaiser has good hospitals and caring and compassionate staff.”

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Blue Shield of California

Blue Shield of California finished in a close second with the nonprofit health plan ranking first in paying claims.

The plan has 58,000 doctors and 340 hospitals that are considered in-network in California. Blue Shield of California is also part of a larger network of Blues plans, allowing you to see providers outside of California when you’re traveling.

The Oakland, CA-based insurer made huge progress in this year’s survey. Last year, the insurer finished in 11th place in Insure’s survey.

Pros:

BlueCard Program lets members get care outside of California in another Blue plan service area.

Eighty-three percent of respondents recommend the company, which was tied for the third-highest result.

Blue Shield of California finished in the top half in each category with members, especially appreciating the company’s billing process and payment options.

Members praised the plan’s in-network providers, ease of use and quality.

Cons:

Plans are available only in California though you can get care from providers in other states when traveling.

Some feedback from members surveyed include:

“Everything is easy and competitive in pricing.”

“They gave good coverage of doctors and hospitals and lower deductibles. Billing is understandable.”

“Super easy in-network, bills always paid, very clear. Lots of choices.”

“Their price is affordable. It has a great network of doctors to choose from and a very good hospital in the network. Awesome reputation and great customer service.”

“In the two years I have had this insurance company, I have had no unresolved issues or denied any treatment. The customer service team is very professional and easy to work with. The plan has no premiums, no deductibles, and no copays. It has dental, vision, and hearing benefits.”

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Humana

Humana came in third place in the 2021 Best Health Insurance Companies, with members liking the insurer’s pricing (second place) and customer service (third place).

Humana, which finished fifth in the 2020 survey, tied for first with Florida Blue for billing process and payment options in the 2021 survey. Thirty-three percent gave the insurer top marks in that category.

Humana tied for first overall with Baby Boomers. It was also number one in the South.

The Louisville, KY-based insurance company has more than 20 million members.

Pros:

Plans offered in most states though not all offerings are available in every state.

Members praised the company’s pricing.

Humana is one of the of the largest Medicare Advantage insurers.

The insurer also has dental and vision coverage.

The Better Business Bureau gave Humana an A+ rating.

Cons:

Insurer ranked lower for whether members would recommend the insurer and if members plan to renew with the company next year.

It doesn’t offer individual plans, including Affordable Care Act offerings.

Humana’s customer service rated in the bottom half of the results.

Some feedback from members include:

“This is the best health insurance I have had since having insurance.”

“They cover many issues older people have. They are caring and watch out for their patients.”

“Is very good helping with any issues you might have regarding your choices in doctors and medications.”

“I have recommended my health insurance to friends and families. I know of several that have purchased from this insurance company.”

“No problems at all getting claims paid on time.”

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Florida Blue

Florida Blue, also known as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, finished fourth in the 2021 survey, an improvement over the seventh-place showing in 2020.

Members praised Florida Blue’s website and app (first place) and claim payments and customer service (second place). Florida Blue also received the highest marks for its plan offerings and tied Humana for first for the billing process and payment options.

Florida Blue additionally received the highest marks from Millennials, ranking number one in each category with that age group. Ninety-five percent of Millennials surveyed say they recommend Florida Blue.

Pros:

The highest percentage of Florida Blue members ranked their insurer “outstanding” (46%) and are completely satisfied with their overall experience (44%).

Members ranked the company highly for its website and app, claim payments and customer service, plan offerings and billing process and payment options.

Overall, 83% said they recommend the company and 93% plan to renew with Florida Blue.

BlueCard Program lets members get care outside of California in another Blue plan service area.

Members praised the health plan’s affordability.

Cons:

Not available outside of Florida though many providers accept Florida Blue as part of the BlueCard Program.

Some feedback from members include:

“They have very friendly and knowledgeable reps over the phone.”

“Good network of doctors and hospitals.”

“If you don’t want bogged down with paperwork, this is the company for you. I never need to do anything, which is great.”

“I have been with Blue Cross Blue Shield for approximately 30 years and have always had good service.”

“They are widely accepted, the rates are competitive and they pay pretty easily.”

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UnitedHealthcare

The country’s biggest health insurance company finished fifth in the 2021 Insure Best Health Insurance Companies survey.

The Minnetonka, MN-based company, which came in 13th place in 2020, received its highest marks for claims payments, pricing and customer service (fourth place in each category) this year.

UnitedHealthcare ranked as the top insurer by Midwest survey respondents.

UnitedHealthcare didn’t receive high marks for whether members recommend the insurer. The company finished last in that category.

Pros:

Ninety-two percent of members plan to renew with UnitedHealthcare.

UnitedHealthcare is the largest health insurance company in the U.S. with an extensive provider network.

The insurer has the largest Medicare Advantage membership.

UnitedHealthcare offers other types of insurance, including short-term, dental, vision, critical illness and life insurance.

Cons:

It doesn’t offer Affordable Care Act plans in many states.

Only 66% recommended UnitedHealthcare in the survey, which was last in the survey.

Some feedback from members include:

“They are great at taking care of you and any problem/question that comes up.”

“I love the hospitals and the doctors available. It has great coverage.”

“They have an awesome policy offering, they have an affordable price offering, their customer service is great.”

“Coverage is great and they do an excellent job of handling claims.”

“This is the best insurance company I have ever had.”

Here are the health insurance companies that ranked highest in the categories:

Best health insurance company for claims: Blue Shield of California

Blue Shield of California ranked first in claims.

Claims payments can play a key role in a member’s satisfaction. Prompt and full claims payments can mean fewer headaches and out-of-pocket costs for you.

Blue Shield of California’s claims payments is one reason the insurer ranked so highly in the survey.

Best health insurance company for price and customer service: Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente ranked number one for price. Health costs, including premiums and out-of-pocket costs, are vital to member satisfaction.

Kaiser Permanente members also praised the company’s customer service. The integrated health system’s insurance plans, doctors, call centers and communications staff received high marks from members.

An integrated system can remove health system hurdles for members and the survey results show that members appreciate Kaiser Permanente’s customer service.

Best health insurance company for policy coverage and billing and payment processing: Florida Blue

Though these topics were not part of our rating factors for ranking of health insurance companies, sufficient coverage options and having satisfactory billing and payment processes are important.

Florida Blue members appreciate the insurance company’s coverage and gave the insurer the highest ratings on coverage.

Fifty-two percent of Florida Blue members surveyed said they’re completely satisfied with the company’s policy offerings, which ranked number one.

Here are the top companies for policy offerings:

BCBS of Florida (FloridaBlue)52%
Humana50%
Aetna (CVSHealth)47%
Horizon BCBSof New Jersey47%
Kaiser Permanente47%

They also ranked it best for billing and payment processing, with 54% saying they were completely satisfied with billing and payments.

Having a health plan with comprehensive coverage and a seamless billing process that pays bills promptly can lead to high member satisfaction. Florida Blue members praised the insurer in those areas.

Here are top companies for billing and payment processing:

BCBS of Florida (Florida Blue)54%
Humana51%
Aetna (CVS Health)49%
Blue Shield of California49%
Kaiser Permanente49%

Frequently asked questions about health insurance

Health plans have to offer a comprehensive set of 10 essential benefits, including:

  • Emergency services
  • Mental health
  • Prescription drug
  • Outpatient care
  • Prenatal and maternity care
  • Hospitalization
  • Preventive care
  • Lab tests
  • Rehab services
  • Vision and dental for children

And they can't cap the dollar amount of benefits you receive in a year or over a lifetime. However, insurers must cap your maxium out-of-pocket costs for the year.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) created the marketplace that allows you to compare and buy individual health plans.

Here are the average monthly premiums for individual and family coverage by metal, or tier, for policies purchased through the marketplace, according to eHealth:

Metal levelIndividual coverageFamily coverage
Bronze$448$1,041
Silver$483$1,212
Gold$559$1,437
Platinum$732$1,610

Here’s how each plan is broken down:

  • Bronze -- Insurer pays 60% of health care costs; you pay 40%.
  • Silver -- Insurer pays 70% of health care costs; you pay 30%.
  • Gold -- Insurer pays 80% of health care costs; you pay 20%
  • Platinum -- Insurer pays 90% of health care costs; you pay 10%.

You can also opt to buy a short-term health plan for less than $100 a month. These plans cost much less than ACA plans, but offer very limited coverage, that in some cases may wind up costing you more out-of-pocket in the long run.

Open enrollment starts Nov. 1, 2020, and continues through Dec. 15, 2020 in most states. Your coverage would start on Jan. 1, 2021.

The open enrollment period differs in these states:

  • California – Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021
  • Colorado – Nov. 1, 2000 to Jan. 15, 2021
  • D.C. – Nov. 1 , 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021
  • Massachusetts – Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 23, 2021
  • Minnesota – Nov. 1 to Dec. 22, 2020
  • Nevada -- Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 15, 2021
  • New Jersey -- Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021
  • New York – Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021

The ACA once required nearly all Americans to have health insurance. However, Congress eliminated the individual mandate penalty in 2017.

So, though the individual mandate is technically still on the books, the penalty is not. You won't pay a penatly at tax time if you don't have health insurance.

However, a handful of states have implemented their own individual mandates. Here are states that have an individual mandate in 2021:

  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

What we surveyed to identify the best health insurance companies

We commissioned a survey of top company policyholders. Many of those surveyed had multiple types of policies. The survey collected customer ratings for 20 leading companies in the auto category and 15 leading companies in each of the home, health and life categories. Only current customers of the insurers on our lists were surveyed, and the survey was not open to the general public on the Insure.com website.We asked policyholders about the following categories for ranking purposes:

Value For Price
value-for-price
Usefulness of website & mobile apps
website-mobile-apps
Customer Service
customer-service
Plan To Renew
plan-to-renew
Claims satisfaction
claims-satisfaction
Would Recommend
recommend

We also asked for feedback and anecdotes to help people who may be looking to purchase a policy with their current insurance provider. And we asked questions that are not rated or ranked on, such as why they first purchased from the company and how they prefer to deal with their insurer, as this may be valuable to you when deciding if the company is the right fit for your needs. To view the extra information, be sure to click on the company logo to view its individual page.

How we ranked the top health insurance companies in the USA

Our team of insurance and data experts ranked and identified the best health insurance companies based on what policyholders in our survey have to say about their experiences. This is an independent editorial analysis devoid of affiliations or partnerships of any kind - companies did not pay to be included. The A.M. Best financial ratings represent an assessment of an insurer's ability to meet its financial obligations to policyholders. These are separate from the editorial ranking.

Consumer's feedback are weighted as follows:

Price
35%
Customer service
25%
Claims
20%
Website and app
10%
Recommendation
5%
Renew
5%

The expert team reviews and analyzed the survey results to share with consumers because we believe it's important to view and evaluate real-life feedback when shopping for insurance. Getting more information is always better when researching the best insurance companies, so continue on to see what our surveyed policyholders had to say.

Why You Should Trust Us

We’re not only health insurance experts who enjoy sharing our knowledge. We’re also consumers just like you. As consumers, we want to know what to expect when it comes to a company’s claims service and if the insurer has a decent website and apps. We, too, want a good price, great customer service and to feel comfortable when deciding on a company to purchase an insurance policy. For this reason, we take our Best Health Insurance Company’s survey seriously so that all of us can find the insurance company that is the best fit for our needs.

Whether it’s your first-time buying insurance or switching insurance providers or 25th time, our mission is to provide you with a quick and easy way to review and determine which companies will be the best fit for you. Our reviews and rankings are unbiased and based on the earnest ratings and feedback from surveyed policyholders.

why-trust-us