Finding the right health insurance company is an important decision. After all, there is arguably nothing more important than your health. But what are the best health insurance companies and what’s the right one for you?
Our editorial team looked at several factors to rate the best health insurers and Kaiser Permanente came out on top.
What are the best health insurance companies?
- Kaiser Permanente
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
- Health Care Service Corp.
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
To rank the top health insurers, the editors collected data on each company from several independent sources: J.D. Power’s U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study, which provides a gauge of customers’ perceptions of their insurer; the National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Health Plan Ratings, which, among other factors, evaluates health plans on the quality of patient care; and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ complaint data, which ranks a company by the number of customer complaints it receives.
Insure.com then assigned each of these scores a weight to determine the best.
But choosing the right healthcare provider isn’t always an easy choice. Just because Kaiser Permanente is the number one company on our list, it doesn’t mean it’s necessary the best insurance provider for you.
We’ll walk through how to make the right decision and find the best rates below.
Kaiser Permanente is a large healthcare provider based in Oakland, California. Kaiser Permanente health insurance plans are generally HMO plans. An HMO, or health maintenance organization, is a health plan that provides coordinated and managed health care services.
Kaiser Permanente has 734 office locations and 39 hospitals. It offers individual/family plans, Medicare, Medicaid and group health insurance. Kaiser Permanente has more than 23,000 physicians and over 65,000 nurses in its network.
Kaiser Permanente is top-rated on Insure.com’s list of the best health insurance companies because it has high marks across the board. It happens to be the only company on this list with a perfect 5.0 from J.D. Power. It also has the top scores in the other two sets of data with a 4.5 from the NCQA and a 4.9 from the NAIC. At 4.75, its overall score is near perfect.
Humana is a health insurance company based in Louisville, Kentucky. It is the fourth-largest healthcare company in the U.S. with a 7% market share. Its network includes over 350,000 providers and more than 3,000 hospitals. The company offers Medicare, dental, vision and employer group plans.
Humana is ranked second on Insure.com’s list, thanks in large part to its high mark from J.D. Power.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Michigan is one of five BCBS entities on this list and mainly serves patients in Michigan. Based in Detroit, the company has nearly 33,200 doctors and 152 hospitals in its network. It has both HMO and PPO networks. PPO, or Preferred Provider Organization, health insurance is a health plan often offered by employers. PPO plans allow members to get out-of-network care and see specialists without referrals. BCBS MI’s PPO gives patients access to 95% of doctors in the state.
BCBS MI offers individual and family plans, dental and vision, Medicare, Medicaid, employer plans, specialty benefits, international plans and vision.
BCBS MI has high scores from NCQA and NAIC.
Health Care Service Corp.
Health Care Service Corp. is a member-owned health insurance company based in Chicago. Its network includes five states, more than 325,000 physicians and other providers, and approximately 9,250 facilities. It offers dental, employer plans, family health insurance, individual health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
Health Care Service Corp. received high scores from J.D. Power and NAIC.
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is a non-profit health insurance company based in Pittsburgh and serves the 29 counties in the western part of the state and 13 counties in the northeast. It offers individual and family plans, children’s health insurance, Medicare and employer plans.
Highmark has the third-best scores from both NAIC and NCQA.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, now known as Florida Blue, is another BCBS insurance company. Based in Jacksonville, Florida Blue offers individual and family plans, Medicare and business plans. It serves more than 5 million members across Florida and 27 million people across 35 states with its affiliated companies. Florida Blue has the fourth-best score from J.D. Power.
Anthem is a for-profit healthcare company based in Indianapolis. It’s one of the largest for-profit healthcare insurers in the country. Anthem is also a part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Anthem has more than 45 million members and serves 14 states including California and New York. It offers individual and family plans, Medicare, Medicaid and employer plans.
Anthem is the only insurance company on the list to score a 5.0 from NAIC, which assesses customer complaints.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC is North Carolina’s BCBS insurer. Based in Durham, BCBS NC has individual and family plans, Medicare, dental, vision, supplemental and ancillary benefits and business plans. Its PPO network includes 96% of medical doctors and 99% of all general acute-care hospitals in North Carolina.
BCBS NC has the fourth best NCQA score and fifth best NAIC score.
Cigna, based in Bloomfield, Connecticut, is another of the nation’s large healthcare and insurance companies. Its plans include individual and family plans, Medicare and employer plans. It has relationships with over 1.5 million providers and operates in 30 countries and jurisdictions.
Cigna has the sixth-best score from J.D. Power.
UnitedHealthcare (UHC) is a large health insurance company based in Minnetonka, Minnesota. UHC’s parent company, UnitedHealth Group, is the largest health insurance company in the country, capturing 12% of the market. Its network includes more than 1.3 million physicians and 6,500 hospitals nationwide. It has individual, employer and business, dental and vision plans as well as Medicare, Medicaid, supplemental plans and more.
Aetna is a managed health care company and insurer based in Hartford, Connecticut. Approximately 39 million people rely on Aetna for health coverage. It offers Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans, employer plans, dental and vision, Medicare and Medicaid. It ranks fifth-best using NCQA data.
Compare health insurance companies side by side
Health insurance companies with the fewest complaints
Based on NAIC data, the insurance companies with the fewest complaints are Anthem, Kaiser Permanente and Highmark.
How to get the best health insurance
Finding the best health insurance isn’t easy. There is a lot to think about, and every person has their own unique set of needs. However, despite the complexity of the decision, there are some steps you can take to determine your best options.
If you or your spouse is eligible for health insurance through an employer, that may be your best option. Alternatively, you may be eligible for an ACA plan, Medicare, or Medicaid.
Then, check reviews of each insurer to find out which insurer aligns most closely with the things you want in an insurance provider. For instance, is it more important that you keep premiums low, or do you want to minimize costs when you have to pay a visit to the doctor?
In addition, some insurance companies are small, only covering a particular state or even a local area. Perhaps a local insurance company provides excellent service, but if you travel often, you may have to pay high out-of-network costs. In this case, one with a national footprint may be a better choice.
The same can be said for prescription drugs. Are the ones you need covered by a particular plan, and does it have relationships with pharmacies where you need them?
All of these are questions you should answer before committing to a health insurance plan.
How to compare health insurance rates
There are a few different ways you can compare health insurance rates. For instance, if you use the health insurance marketplace, you can easily compare plans from different providers and see deductibles, premiums, co-pays, out-of-pocket maximums and so on. This will let you know how much you will pay on a monthly basis as well as how much you will pay when going to the doctor.
On the other hand, if you are enrolling in a plan through work, you can compare the rates on all of the plans offered there. You should easily be able to sort by things like premium and out-of-pocket maximum. In general, the lower the premium, the higher the deductible, and vice versa.
Also pay attention to the provider network, prescription coverage and anything else that is important to you before selecting a plan.
How to get the best health insurance that’s right for you
Finding the best health insurance for you can be challenging because there are so many plans. Even if you find a plan that looks good, there might be some fine-print item that makes the plan a deal-breaker for you.
To find the best health insurance that’s right for you, Kelly Maxwell, CEO of Seniors Mutual, recommends working with an independent broker or agency to find the right plan. “It’s pretty simple to find the best rates, we even have a quote tool on our website for people to see instantly,” Maxwell says.
What most people don’t know about health insurance
There are several things most people don’t know about health insurance, such as:
Short-term health insurance can be an affordable option
Today, most people either enroll in health plans with their employer or through the health insurance marketplace. However, short-term health insurance can be a cheaper option in some cases, according to Tim Connon is founder of ParamountQuote Insurance Advisors. He says that in some cases, it may be cheaper to use short-term health insurance until you can find an employer that offers a lower group rate.
“If the individual makes a high income — typically above $60,000 a year — they would not qualify for a government subsidy for a policy on the exchange and without that subsidy, their individual health rate could be anywhere between $500 – $1,000 a month in some cases,” Connon says.
There are still options if you miss open enrollment
The federal open enrollment period is 45 days long, giving people time to find the best plan for themselves. However, there might be cases where, despite your best effort, you aren’t able to pick a plan before open enrollment ends. If that is the case, you might still have options, though.
For instance, Native Americans can enroll in exchange plans year-round, as can those who qualify for Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program, which states offer. Another possibility is a qualifying event, which grants you a special enrollment period. Qualifying events include involuntary loss of coverage, marriage and divorce, and moving. Several other life changes may qualify as well.
Getting everyone insured won’t “fix” health spending
The U.S. spends the most per capita in the world on health care. In fact, at $10,586, we spend significantly more per capita than the second-place country. That distinction goes to Switzerland, which spends $7,317 per capita.
But even getting everyone insured won’t fix the problem.
To rank the top health insurers, the editors collected data on each company from several independent sources: J.D. Power’s U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study, which provides a gauge of customers’ perceptions of their insurer; the National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Health Plan Ratings, which, among other factors, evaluates health plans on the quality of patient care; and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ complaint data, which ranks a company by the number of customer complaints it receives. The editors also collected A.M. Best data, which measures financial strength. A.M. Best data was not available for all insurers and is presented only for informational purposes. It was not used to rank the companies.
Frequently asked questions about health insurance
Which is Better: HMO or PPO?
Neither type of plan is necessarily better than one another; these are simply two types of plans, and one may be better than the other depending on your specific situation.
At the most basic level, HMO plans may require you to pick a primary care provider (PCP) and have more limitations on care than PPO plans but cost less. For a higher cost, PPO plans may allow you to see a wider network of providers and have fewer restrictions on where you can go to receive care.
How much does the average American pay for health insurance?
The average for single premiums in 2021 was $7,739, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), and for families the average was $22,221. KFF further notes that the average premium for both individuals and families has increased by 4%.
Is it worth it to buy health insurance?
In general, the more you use your insurance, the more you will benefit from it – especially if you have extensive coverage. Thus, if you are healthy and rarely need medical care, you might think it would be better to go uninsured.
This makes sense in theory, but what if you have a medical emergency? We like to hope these things will never happen, but it is better to be prepared should the need arise.
While you might be able to save money by not having health insurance, you are risking both your health and financial well-being. Even if you don’t use your health insurance frequently, it’s better to at least have basic coverage that will protect you in emergencies.
Which states have the cheapest health insurance?
For 2021, the five states with the cheapest health insurance based on the Affordable Care Act premiums are: Minnesota ($292), New Hampshire ($325), Rhode Island ($328), New Mexico ($329) and Michigan ($335).
Who is the largest health insurer in the U.S.?
United Health Group is the largest insurer in the country.