Best Health Insurance Companies in 2020
Navigating the intricate insurance jargon and finding the best health insurance option for you is a gargantuan task. In fact, we at PolicyAdvice would agree that the health insurance sector is the most difficult to understand. That’s why we spent two full weeks thoroughly researching all the nuances of this industry to make your life easier.
We’ve included all the ways you can obtain health insurance and all the different plans available. Additionally, we’ve listed what’s covered and what’s not while giving tips on how to get the cheapest coverage.
Furthermore, we reviewed over 40 different health insurance companies in the US and ranked them based on criteria such as prices, customer service, and financial strength. We know that there’s no one-size-fits-all plan, and that’s why we also specified which insurer is the best for each demographic. On top of that, we even listed the finest companies in each major US region.
Finding the perfect coverage will still require time and effort, but with the resources this page provides, it will be considerably easier.
The Best Health Insurance Companies in the US
- Kaiser Permanente — The Best Overall
- Blue Cross Blue Shield — The Best Large Insurer
- Cigna — The Best for Telehealth
- Aetna — The Best to Get Through an Employer
- Molina — The Cheapest Option for ACA Insurance
- UnitedHealthcare Insurance — The Best Online Tools
- Humana — The Best for Senior Customers
Kaiser Permanente Health Insurance - The Best Overall
Kaiser Permanente (which incorporates the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan) faced stiff competition in the form of Blue Cross Blue Shield, but it emerged as the best individual health insurance in the US.
For starters, Kaiser’s products are available in eight US states and the District of Columbia, and it has an extensive network of reliable providers with over 22,000 participating doctors. Furthermore, the company has an intuitive, well-made website and a highly rated mobile app. You can use them to get an online quote and select coverages.
On top of that, the prices are quite reasonable. For instance, for a 40-year-old male who doesn’t smoke, we got $294 per month for the Bronze package and $440 for the Gold. Given the fact that we did this health insurance test in California, which is among the more expensive states, the results are encouraging.
You can add high customer service ratings to the list of Kaiser’s plus points. The company took first place in J.D. Power’s Medicare Advantage Study for 2019. Furthermore, the same agency ranked Kaiser as the best in California, Colorado, Maryland, and the Northwest and South Atlantic regions. This practically means that Kaiser is among the top health insurance companies in customer service wherever it does its business, which is an outstanding achievement.
If you opt for Kaiser, you’ll have access to several insurance plans, with varying coinsurance percentages and prices. You can also select the HSA option with each plan and get additional perks like its online wellness tools.
The only caveat we need to mention is that A. M. Best has not yet rated Kaiser Permanente. However, we do have another dependable rating agency to work with. Standard & Poor’s assigned the company an “AA-.” This means that the average customer has nothing to worry about when it comes to Kaiser’s ability to cover claims.
Overall, Kaiser provides the best medical insurance if you’re located on one of the states it covers. Miss it at your peril.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield Health Insurance - Best Large Insurer
If we had to recommend an insurance company without knowing much about the person or their zip code, it would be Blue Shield Insurance.
For starters, this federation of insurers sells its products in all 50 states through its regional representatives, meaning it will cater to the needs of many customers. In fact, Blue Shield already covers about 100 million customers in the US alone. And being one of the country’s major health insurance companies means that Blue Shield has a vast network of associated health institutions.
On top of that, it offers a wide range of customizable Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans. The company even provides short-term coverage options, travel insurance, and Health Savings Account plans.
When it comes to prices, Blue Shield comes in just a bit more expensive than the average. However, while the company isn’t the leader in low-cost health insurance, it has many other things going for it.
Its regional offices have the highest customer service ratings in the Southwest, Heartland, and Northeast regions, as well as in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
Furthermore, Blue Shield’s representatives often get an “A” or “A+” A. M. Best rating, indicating the company won’t look for excuses when the time comes to pay claims. Additionally, all Blue Shield companies offer a polished, intuitive website and a well-made mobile app.
Overall, Blue Shield ticks all the important boxes, and it should be near the top of your shortlist of the best health insurance companies.
Cigna Health Insurance - The Best for Telehealth
Cigna is another well-rated insurer that demands your attention. Its standout feature is free telehealth. It allows you to talk to a nurse 24/7 if there’s an urgent medical issue you need to address.
Additionally, you can schedule an online appointment with a board-certified doctor. Then, you can talk with them over the phone, or by video call, to treat a minor condition. They can even send prescriptions to the nearest pharmacy when needed.
Besides this fantastic perk, there are other reasons you should consider Cigna when you’re next purchasing personal health insurance.
For starters, the company is among the most affordable options on the market. Its Bronze plan for a 40-year-old male costs only per $203 month.
Furthermore, Cigna’s financial strength isn’t too shabby either. The company got an “A” or “Excellent” from A. M. Best. While this is not the best rating possible, an ordinary customer has no reason to worry about Cigna’s ability to cover claims.
Even in customer service, Cigna achieves respectable results. Although in some regions it has a spotty record, it’s number one in New Jersey and the East South Central region in J.D. Power’s rankings.
Add the relatively large network of providers, and it turns out Cigna gets all the essentials right. It may not be the outright best health insurance company, but it’s surely near the top.
Aetna Health Insurance - Best for Employer Plans
Aetna doesn’t currently offer individual plans on its website, but if you can secure it through your employer, it’s worth a shot.
For starters, it’s one of the most affordable insurers around. Based on the data from reputable research, you can save as much as $600 annually if you opt for Aetna.
Besides reasonable prices, Aetna offers solid financial strength too. It’s A. M. Best rating is “A” or “Excellent.” This may not be the highest score possible, but it still guarantees that Aetna has the means to cover your claims expenses.
Additionally, being one of the larger insurers in the US means that Aetna cooperates with many healthcare companies. This ensures that you’ll have access to high-quality providers. Aetna also offers a sufficient number of different plans and optional coverages, with the notable omission of short-term insurance.
Moving on to customer satisfaction, while Aetna is surely not the champion in this department, it still manages to achieve top spots in Delaware, West Virginia, Washington DC, Virginia, and Ohio. Nonetheless, potential buyers should double-check the company’s record before they part with their money. Aetna was ranked as mediocre health insurance in Florida, and it got the last spots in Texas and Maryland.
Still, if your employer cooperates with Aetna, or plans to do so, this company is worth considering.
Molina Health Insurance - The Cheapest Option for ACA Insurance
Plagued with the question, How much is health insurance, and will it be too much? You should know that your insurance quote will depend on many factors, the primary ones being your age, health, and zip code. Still, if you want inexpensive health insurance, Molina is among the first providers you should check if you can qualify for its coverage.
It was the perennial cheapest company wherever we checked. For instance, its individual health insurance in Texas starts at only $155 per month for the Bronze plan.
Molina offers health insurance coverage to individuals through Medicaid and Medicare, and it provides ACA-regulated plans through the marketplace exchange.
Since it doesn’t sell private insurance, this company wasn’t rated in J.D. Power’s rankings in customer service. Nonetheless, according to the online reviews we checked, the customer satisfaction ratings are a mixed bag.
When it comes to financial strength, Molina isn’t rated by A. M. Best. However, Moody’s, another renowned rating agency, recently raised Molina’s rating to “BA1.” This is far from the best health insurance rating possible but still sufficient for an average insurer.
Overall, Molina healthcare may not be the best company around, but for cheap government-regulated plans, it’s a strong contender.
UnitedHealthcare Insurance - Best Online Tools
Also known as UnitedHealth Group, this is the single largest health insurer in the US (remember, Blue Shield is a group of 30+ smaller insurers). This means that this insurer is widely available and that it has an outstanding network of providers. In fact, the number of United Healthcare providers is over 790,000, meaning you’ll be able to find high-quality care within its system.
Besides the vast network of providers, UnitedHealthcare has many other things going for it.
For starters, the company is in excellent financial strength. UnitedHealthcare’s A. M. Best rating is “A,” or “Excellent.” Furthermore, the company took sixth place in 2019’s Fortune 500 list. These two excellent results confirm that UnitedHealthcare’s management knows a thing or two about running a successful business.
On top of that, the company offers a variety of plans, including short term and HSA coverages.
However, perhaps the best way to get a health insurance quote is via its polished online tools. UnitedHealthcare’s website is intuitive and informative, and you can use it to get a quote and compare plans online, track a deductible, or find the nearest doctor. Furthermore, the company’s excellent Health4Me app lets you do all those things on the go.
Nonetheless, UnitedHealthcare has a few notable downsides. First, its customer service ratings are usually in the lower tier. This means that the company often gets two or three stars in J.D. Power’s rankings, depending on the region.
Second, UnitedHealthcare is more expensive than average. For those choosing cheaper plans, this may not be an issue, but for customers getting PPO health insurance, UnitedHealthcare may not be the best option.
Nonetheless, insurance quotes are based on a myriad of factors, and you may get different prices than we did. That’s why we would advise at least getting a quote from UnitedHealthcare.
Humana Health Insurance - The Best for Senior Customers
If you’re a customer of a ripe age looking for high-quality health insurance, then Humana might be the perfect choice for you. That’s because many of its best health insurance plans automatically include home health care. This may come in handy if you’re suffering from a chronic illness or recovering from a surgical procedure.
Additionally, Humana is quite affordable for this demographic. Its Bronze plan starts at around $180 per month, while the more comprehensive coverage costs around $300. Even if you aren’t a senior, chances are Humana will be an inexpensive option for you.
There are many other reasons why Humana should be near the top of your list when you’re comparing medical insurance quotes. The company boasts a solid A. M. Best rating of “A-,” which, while not the highest score possible, still encourages trust in its ability to cover claims.
Additionally, though it isn’t the champion of customer service, Humana still scores respectably. In J.D. Power’s rankings, it usually gets four or five stars depending on the region.
We should mention that it doesn’t offer individual or short-term health insurance plans at the moment, which may be an issue for some. However, if that doesn’t bother you, Humana deserves your attention.
Our Evaluation Method
The Top Health Insurance Companies by State
While the rankings of the best companies may be helpful, the quality of health insurance varies significantly depending on where you call home. That’s why we decided to list the top-ranked companies in customer service by J.D. Power. All of these companies are commercial insurers. This means you can buy their products either as an individual or through your employer.
- East South Central Region – Cigna
- Heartland Region – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma
- Mountain Region – SelectHealth
- Northeast Region – Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Connecticut
- Northwest Region – Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
- South Atlantic Region – Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
- Southwest Region – Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico
- Delaware, West Virginia, Washington DC – Aetna
- Illinois, Indiana – Health Alliance Medical Plans
- Minnesota, Wisconsin – HealthPartners
- California – Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
- Colorado – Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
- Florida – AvMed
- Maryland – Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
- Massachusetts – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
- Michigan – Health Alliance Plan of Michigan
- New Jersey – Cigna
- New York – Capital District Physicians Health Plan
- Ohio – Aetna
- Pennsylvania – Capital Blue Cross
- Texas – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas
- Virginia – Aetna
What You Should Know Before You Buy Health Insurance
What Does Health Insurance Do for You?
The sole purpose of health insurance is to reimburse some or all of the medical expenses you have while the policy lasts. In other words, if you don’t have health insurance, you’ll have to pay your medical bills out of your pocket.
And going without health insurance in the US can be very costly. Two out of three people who file for personal bankruptcy do so because of medical expenses they can’t cover.
How Different Groups Obtain Health Insurance
The majority of the US population gets its coverage through an employer that cooperates with an associated insurer. Furthermore, some customers purchase their coverage directly from a health insurance company using an exchange.
Besides these two groups, certain demographics have immediate access to free health insurance.
Low income and disabled individuals can count on Medicaid. It delivers health-related services for free to those below the income limit. Currently, 21% of Americans use Medicaid.
Additionally, Americans 65 or older have automatically obtained a right for Medicare. Even younger individuals with disability status or those in end-stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) can qualify for Medicare.
Finally, a large portion of Americans live without health insurance.
Eagle-eyed readers might be curious about how disabled individuals can obtain medical insurance plans through both Medicare and Medicaid. It’s because disabled people can be approved for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and receive Medicare, or they can be approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and receive Medicaid.
How Does Health Insurance Work?
Your policy is a contract between you and your chosen insurance company. You agree to pay the premium (or count on another organization to pay it for you), and the insurer agrees to pay at least a portion of your medical expenses. Still, there’s an abundant amount of insurance lingo you should get familiar with to understand how your coverage functions.
A deductible is the fixed dollar amount you’ll be paying out of your pocket for your treatment during a given period. The period is typically one year.
Coinsurance is the percentage of the medical expenses you’ll be paying out-of-pocket after you pay the deductible. The cheapest health insurance plans usually have a high deductible and a high coinsurance percentage. For instance, most Bronze plans have 40% coinsurance.
Similar to a deductible, a copayment is the amount you’ll be paying out of your pocket. The only difference is that the deductible is usually a larger sum paid for a given period, while copayments are smaller amounts paid for each hospital visit, prescription, etc.
- Out-of-Pocket Maximum
This is the maximum amount you’ll pay out of your pocket with the Marketplace health insurances. For Marketplace single-person plans, it’s $7,900 for 2019 and $8,200 for 2020.
- Open Enrollment Period
This is the time of the year when you can obtain most types of health insurance coverage. It’s over for 2019, meaning you can only enroll if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. You can do that if you had a specific life event such as moving, getting married, having or adopting a child, or losing insurance.
If your employer is in charge of your health insurance, the Open Enrollment Period may be different. Additionally, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid allow enrollment any time of year.
For 2020, the Open Enrollment Period starts on Friday, November 1, 2019, and it ends on Sunday, December 15, 2019.
Choosing Between Different Health Insurance Plans
When you finally choose the company for you, you’ll encounter an equally difficult choice trying to find the right insurance plan. We’ve covered the most popular to make your decision easier.
HMO (Health Management Organization)
HMO plans are among the most restrictive health insurance options. If you purchase an HMO, you’ll be obliged to receive medical care within the network your insurance provides.
Additionally, you’ll need to see your primary care physician to schedule an appointment with a specialist. And if you want to receive non-emergency care outside of your network, be prepared to spend some big bucks and often pay the entire medical bill.
Nonetheless, HMO insurance does have one crucial advantage, and that’s price. This plan is among the cheapest available. Often, this coverage charges copays instead of coinsurance, meaning you’ll pay a small fixed sum every time you seek medical care. Additionally, you may not need to pay the deductible before the coverage starts.
Who Should Choose an HMO:
- People who have access to high-quality doctors though their preferred insurers
- Folks who want cheap medical insurance
- Healthy individuals without special medical needs
- Those looking for frequent routine care (such as during a pregnancy)
PPO (Preferred Provider Organization)
This plan allows for much greater flexibility compared to an HMO. First, you’ll be able to skip a primary-care physician and go directly to a specialist. Second, you can choose a medical facility that’s out of your insurer’s network. However, you’ll probably have to pay a higher percentage of the bill in that case.
The flexibility that PPO insurance brings comes with higher costs. To begin with, the plan is among the priciest. Moreover, you’ll need to cover the deductible before your coverage kicks in. And the lower the deductible you choose, the higher the premium will be.
Additionally, you’ll have to pay coinsurance expenses (that’s the percentage of insurance you’re paying from your pocket). They are usually around 10%, but they can reach even 40% if you go to an out-of-network facility.
Nonetheless, few healthcare plans will be as beneficial as a PPO, and that’s why for the right customer, it’s worth the extra outlay.
Who Should Choose a PPO:
- People who don’t have access to high-quality health care in their network or area
- Customers who want the highest quality insurance no matter the price
- Individuals with special medical needs
POS (Point of Service)
POS is one of two hybrid plans that are widely available. Much like an HMO, you’ll need a referral from a primary care physician to visit a specialist. However, POS insurance also lets you seek medical attention outside of your insurer’s network, much like PPO.
Price-wise, this plan falls between the cheaper HMO and the more expensive PPO.
Who Should Choose POS:
- Customers with a trusted primary-care physician who still need all the benefits of PPO
EPO (Exclusive Provider Organization)
An EPO is another take on mixing the various benefits of a PPO and HMO. An EPO insurance plan allows you to skip your primary care physician to get a referral (a special preauthorization may be needed for more expensive services). However, you’ll only be covered within the network of your health insurance brand.
Like a POS, an EPO’s price falls somewhere in the middle.
Who Should Choose EPO:
- Customers who dislike the fuss of getting a referral and have full trust in their insurer’s network
Short-term Health Insurance
It’s best to use short-term health insurance if you left your job and are looking for a new one or you want coverage outside of open enrollment. That’s because short-term insurance plans typically have a very high deductible and provide limited coverage. For instance, they may not include benefits such as preventive care, and they may have a total limit of benefits.
Overall, they’re the cheapest plans, but in the end, you get what you pay for.
Who Should Choose STHO:
- Customers who are looking for limited coverage while on a job hunt
- Those who want to shop outside of open enrollment
If you lose your job or get a substantial reduction in hours, this option may help. Your employer can extend your health insurance for up to 36 months. However, you’ll be paying the full premium, which can make this plan very expensive. It’s always prudent to shop around for private plans before you enroll in COBRA.
Additionally, your employer must have over 20 full-time employees to be eligible to offer this coverage.
Essential Health Insurance Benefits
Whichever of these individual health insurance plans you choose (except for short-term), it must cover certain benefits specified by the Affordable Care Act. These include the following:
- Emergency Attention
If you get injured and need immediate attention, you’ll likely have emergency room treatment and ambulance expenses. Your insurance must cover them.
- Hospital Care
Any medical attention you get in a hospital or another nursing facility is paid for. However, keep in mind that health insurance providers have their own network of hospitals. If you go out of the system, you’ll likely have to contribute substantially out of your pocket.
- Ambulatory Care
This refers to the medical attention you get when there’s no need to get admitted to a hospital. It’s often home care or a visit to the doctor’s office.
- Laboratory Services
Your insurance also covers the costs of tests needed to reach a correct diagnosis.
- Rehabilitative Care
If you’re recovering from a severe injury or illness, you’ll likely need professional medical assistance to get back to your full strength. Your insurance will cover speech or physical therapy, among others.
- Preventive Care
Health care providers must also cover the expenses of services that’ll help prevent you from getting sick or developing a condition. This includes vaccines and screenings, and it even applies to chronic issues.
Your health insurance also has to pay for at least one medication listed in each federal category of prescription medicine. Still, insurance companies have lists of drugs they favor. In practice, this often means they’ll require you to use a cheap generic brand medication.
- Mental Health Care and Addiction Treatment
Your insurance plan will also cover the expenses necessary to battle addiction or mental health issues. These include all the required steps, such as diagnosis and treatment, whether you’re inpatient or outpatient.
- Maternal Health, Newborn Childcare, and Pediatric Services
Personal health insurance covers care for a mother during labor and birth. It also includes newborn care and pediatric services for a child listed on the policy.
What’s Typically Not Covered
- Cosmetic Procedures
The vast majority of cosmetic procedures are not deemed “medically necessary,” meaning your health insurance won’t cover them. However, reconstructive surgery after a car accident, for instance, will be covered by your private health insurance.
- Travel Vaccines
If you’re planning to visit an exotic destination, you’ll likely need a specific kind of vaccine and medication. You’ll have to cover those fully out of your pocket, since they aren’t general health vaccines, and they aren’t deemed medically necessary.
However, different rules may apply if you’re going on a business trip and you’re covered through your employer.
- The Majority of Alternative Medicine
Private health insurance companies won’t pay for treatments that are commonly recognized as alternative medicine. These include homeopathic potions, acupuncture, and similar unproven healing methods.
Nonetheless, in some instances, health insurers will cover some chiropractic services.
- Vision and Hearing
While essential to every human, vision and hearing treatments are excluded from the standard medical insurance plans for individuals. You can choose them as an optional endorsement on your current coverage or buy a separate policy that covers only vision.
However, keep in mind that it may not be worth it. Vision insurance is not regulated by the ACA, meaning there’s no limit for out-of-pocket expenses. If you don’t have serious issues, it could be more economical to pay for the medical treatment out of your pocket.
- Dental Procedures
Like vision and hearing insurance, dental coverage comes in the form of an optional endorsement. Most healthcare insurance companies will advertise it along with their coverage, so it’s at least easy to obtain. However, dental insurance also isn’t regulated by the ACA, meaning insurers have more wiggle-room to overcharge you.
- The Majority of Medications
While prescription drugs are among the essential benefits specified by Obamacare, insurance companies have a list of medications they cover. They have a lot of wiggle-room in creating these lists, meaning the chances aren’t small that you’ll have to settle for a generic product.
Buying Tips for Health Insurance
- Study Health Insurance Reviews
When you’re choosing an insurer, you want to know how each company performs in departments such as customer satisfaction or financial strength. Obviously, this guide contains a preview of the best companies, but we would advise checking full reviews before you settle for an insurer.
The best way to do so is by studying the ratings by the leading industry experts on insurance comparison websites. Additionally, ask colleagues, friends, and family if they know something about the insurer you like. That way, you’ll have all the data necessary to make an educated decision.
- Compare Health Insurance Quotes
No matter how appealing a particular insurer may seem, don’t settle for that company until you compare it against 4–6 others. That’s because prices vary based on a multitude of factors such as your location, genetics, current health, and many other factors. You never know what quote you’ll get.
There are many ways to shop for health insurance. For instance, there are comparison websites, quote tools on each insurers website, health insurance agents, and your home state’s marketplace.
Whichever way you prefer, only by comparing multiple companies will you get the lowest premium.
We even advise before to do a little preparation before quote comparison. Our to-do list would include checking the average prices for your profile in your home state, as well as asking your family and friends about the affordability of their current insurers.
- Inquire About Each Insurer’s Networks
You’ll likely have to use your health insurance multiple times during a single year. And if you’re a price-conscious customer, you probably rely on your insurer’s network.
That’s why when you compare health insurance plans, you should also check the reputation of your preferred insurer’s network. If you have a dependable primary care physician nearby and an excellent hospital, you could choose an HMO plan and save substantially. And if your insurer has an excellent network but you don’t know a lot about the primary care physician you’ll get, hybrid plans such as a POS or EPO might be perfect for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the top 5 health insurance companies?
Based on our research, which examined customer service and financial strength ratings, network quality, and prices, the top health insurers in the US are Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, Aetna, Humana, and Cigna.
Is Blue Cross Blue Shield good insurance?
Yes. Blue Cross Blue Shield companies offer reasonable prices, excellent online tools, and all the standard coverages. Furthermore, they excel in financial strength and customer service. That’s why we think that Blue Cross Blue Shield representatives are among the best health insurance companies in the US.
How much is Blue Cross Blue Shield a month?
It all depends on the plan you want to choose, as well as your age, general health, and location. That being said, the plans usually range from $200 to $600, depending on the benefits you choose.
How do I choose the best plan for my health insurance?
If you want to find the right health insurance for you, you should ask yourself what coverage you really need. Are you a healthy individual who knows a reliable primary care physician? Then the HMO plan is the one for you.
Are you in the pink of health but you don’t like the whole fuss with working through your primary physician? Then the best option might be POS insurance.
Do you have access to a trusted primary care physician, but you’d like to get care out of your insurer’s network? Then EPO is the one for you.
Finally, if you need a lot of medical attention, or just have the funds, and want to have the freedom to go straight to whichever network you like, choose a PPO.
What is the cheapest health insurance?
Generally speaking, HMO plans are the cheapest. As far as the insurance companies are concerned, Molina, Cigna, and Aetna are among the most affordable insurers around.
What’s better, PPO or HMO?
The answer to this question depends on your priorities. If you’d like more affordable coverage and you have access to a trusted primary care physician and medical network, an HMO might be the best health insurance for you.
If you’re prepared to pay more, and you need the best medical attention, a PPO might be the better option.