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Protecting your health is one of the most important things in life. The best health insurance for your needs may vary depending on factors like your budget, where you live, the type of care you need and many additional factors. In anticipation of Open Enrollment, let’s take a look at a few of the best health insurance providers offering plans.
Quick Look: The Best Health Insurance
- Best for Member Support: Aetna
- Best for Nationwide Coverage: BlueCross BlueShield
- Best for Access to Specialists: Kaiser Permanente
- Best for Global Coverage: Cigna
- Best for No Waiting Period: Sidecar
- Best for Short-Term Plans: Pivot
- Best for Same-Day Coverage: UnitedHealthcare
- Best for PPO Plans: Humana
Best Health Insurance
The right health insurance plan protects you and gives you peace of mind. Prepare for Open Enrollment with our guide to the best health insurance plans with these provider reviews.
Aetna offers tiered health insurance plans, and the company takes special care to streamline and improve on the patient portal model. Through your Aetna account, you can schedule appointments, find new doctors or specialists, print your medical ID card and more.
Aetna also offers a comprehensive app compatible with iPhone, Android and the Apple Watch to help you set and work toward your health and fitness goals. If you’re tech-savvy and need an online one stop shop for your healthcare needs, Aetna is an excellent choice.
Aetna specializes in Medicare Advantage plans. If you qualify for Medicare, you may want to substitute Original Medicare for a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans often include additional benefits beyond Original Medicare (like dental coverage and prescription drug coverage).
Aetna offers a wide range of Medicare Advantage options that you can use to enjoy more convenient and comprehensive health insurance coverage. Many of Aetna’s plans include $0 deductibles and $0 monthly premiums for medical care, which lowers the costs that you’ll pay for coverage. These $0 deductibles even extend to coverage out of Aetna’s network—which means that if you have a specialist or primary care provider who you want to continue seeing, you’ll be able to use your full suite of Aetna benefits.
2. Blue Cross Blue Shield
Not every health insurance company is authorized to sell plans in every state. This can make it more difficult to compare plans, as insurance options will vary depending on your state. Blue Cross Blue Shield is 1 of the only health insurance providers that can offer plans across the country.
Through a network of subsidiary companies, Blue Cross Blue Shield offers health insurance options in most parts of the country. Blue Cross Blue Shield issues ACA-compliant plans that include access to the 10 essential benefits, as well as online health management resources. Plan holders also have access to special discounts on wellness products and services.
3. Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente operates as a health maintenance organization (HMO). This means that you’ll use your coverage within Kaiser Permanente’s network when you need to see a doctor or specialist. While this limits the areas where you can use your coverage, it helps you save money on your premiums.
Thanks to its network connections, Kaiser Permanente’s team can communicate with one another regarding your care and treatment plan. This can help limit interactions between medications and helps you get the referrals that you need quickly. You can enroll in an ACA-compliant plan and explore your options easily through the health insurance Marketplace or directly through Kaiser Permanente.
Though ACA plan providers are required to offer coverage for the 10 essential health benefits, these benefits do not extend to all health services. For example, ACA plan providers are not required to offer coverage for dental health services or vision coverage for adults enrolled in coverage. This can mean that you’ll need to shop for different insurance plans with multiple providers to get a comprehensive set of coverages.
Cigna is a health insurance provider offering ACA-compliant individual plans in 10 states. In many areas, Cigna’s customers pay as little as $125 for coverage, and there are more than 30 plan options available in most states. Cigna also offers vision insurance and dental insurance options directly through its site, and you can sign onto all coverages with just a few clicks.
5. Sidecar Health
Though ACA-compliant plans provide a comprehensive range of benefits, you must sign up for coverage during the limited Open Enrollment period. If you’re outside of the Open Enrollment period and you’re looking for coverage, you might want to consider Sidecar Health. Sidecar Health’s Access Plan has no enrollment period, which means that you can sign onto coverage any time.
Sidecar Health can be an excellent option for those who need quick, affordable coverage. The company’s streamlined process allows users to pay lower premiums, and $0 deductibles are standard. Sidecar Health also doesn’t utilize a network, which means that you don’t need to worry about finding care providers that have partnered with Sidecar Health.
Plans referred to above are excepted benefit fixed indemnity insurance products marketed and administered by Sidecar Health Insurance Solutions, LLC and underwritten by Sirius America Insurance Company or United States Fire Insurance Company, depending on the state. As an excepted benefit plan, it does not provide comprehensive/major medical expenses coverage, minimum essential coverage, or essential health benefits. You cannot receive a subsidy (premium tax credit and/or cost-sharing reduction) under the ACA in connection with your purchase of such an excepted benefit fixed indemnity insurance plan. Also, the termination or loss of this policy does not entitle you to a special enrollment period to purchase a health benefit plan that qualifies as minimum essential coverage outside of an open enrollment period. Coverage and plan options may vary or may not be available in all states.
6. Pivot Health
A short-term health insurance plan is another option that you can use to get coverage quickly outside of Open Enrollment. Pivot Health is a short-term health insurance plan and supplemental coverage plan provider. With Pivot Health, you can sign onto temporary health insurance coverage in as little as a few minutes and compare your options quickly.
Pivot Health allows you to sign onto coverage for as little as 30 days or as long as 3 years depending on your state’s laws. Plan options are more affordable when compared to ACA-compliant plans, and there is no enrollment period for these plans. Designed for flexibility, your coverage can start the next day after approval.
As one of the largest health insurance providers in the United States, UnitedHealthcare is available in nearly every ZIP code.
UnitedHealthcare offers a wide variety of insurance options from supplemental plans for students to fully-compliant Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans for individuals and families. UnitedHealthcare has a variety of metal tiers and varying plan options to help you balance your costs and coverage.
Prefer to handle your insurance online? UnitedHealthcare also provides one of the best online health portals with virtual consultations at no additional cost. You can also schedule doctor appointments, view your claims and manage your policy all from your MyUHC account.
Are you a senior citizen? If so, you’ll typically have access to free or low-cost Medicare issued through the federal government. You might also want to choose a Medicare Advantage plan from a private company because Original Medicare doesn’t cover everything.
Humana specializes in offering exceptionally affordable Medicare Advantage plans intended to offer more coverage than Original Medicare. Many of Humana’s options offer $0 monthly premiums, and most plans also include $0 deductibles. You can even supplement your Medicare Advantage plan with a comprehensive prescription drug plan for as little as $13 per month. If you’re close to age 65 and think a Medicare Advantage plan might suit your needs, consider a plan from Humana.
Open Enrollment Marketplace Coverage
You can enroll in a health insurance plan for the year during the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Open Enrollment period. For plans:
- Open Enrollment begins on November 1.
- You must enroll in a plan by December 15.
- If you enroll in a plan by December 15, your coverage will begin on January 1.
If you miss Open Enrollment, you may be able to sign up for an ACA-compliant plan if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
How to Pick the Best Health Insurance Plan
The best health insurance plan for you will vary depending on your individual health needs. The following are some of the factors that you might want to consider when you compare health insurance plan options.
- Premiums: The first cost-related factor that you’ll want to consider when you shop for health insurance plans is each plan’s premium. Your health insurance premium is a monthly payment that you’ll make to keep your insurance current. Be sure to choose a plan with a premium that you can afford each month.
- Deductible: Your health insurance plan’s deductible is the amount of money that you need to contribute toward your healthcare costs before your plan “kicks in” and starts paying for your care. Balance your deductible and your premium expenses to find a plan that fits your budget.
- Benefits: During Open Enrollment, you have the opportunity to sign onto an ACA-compliant health insurance plan. Under the ACA, these plans must provide you with at least coverage for the 10 essential health benefits. Keep in mind that short-term health insurance plan providers are not obligated to offer these benefits.
- If you don’t have health insurance through your place of employment, you can sign up for a plan during the ACA Open Enrollment period.
- Open Enrollment begins on November 1. Coverage begins on January 1.
- If you miss Open Enrollment, you may want to consider filling in the gap with a short-term health insurance plan.
- Health insurance plan availability will vary by state.
- Compare expenses like premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums when comparing plan choices.
Things to Consider in Your Health Insurance Search
Additionally, here is what you should consider when comparing health insurance plans:
- Where are you eligible to get insurance from? Are you eligible for health insurance from your employer, through the American Affordable Care Act Marketplace or a private insurer? If all 3, which offers the best coverage at the best deal?
- Is there an open enrollment period happening right now for either an employer or government sponsored plan? If not, do you need short term health insurance?
- How much coverage do you need and what type of coverage is most important? This is especially important to consider if you're in poor health now and will need robust insurance to cover medical expenses. This means comparing premiums, deductibles, coverage and annual maximums.
- What premium price are you comfortable paying each month? Your premium is your monthly bill for health insurance coverage.
- What deductible level are you comfortable at? Your deductible is usually the out-of-pocket amount you're required to pay before your coverage kicks in. Plans with lower premiums often have higher deductibles, and vice versa.
- Do you need a high annual maximum? This is especially important if you'll need a lot of help from your insurance company to cover medical expenses in the upcoming year. If a plan has a low annual cap on coverage, you may find yourself paying way more out-of-pocket than you can afford.
- Does a plan cover your needs? If you only need basic preventative or just-in-case-coverage, are you paying a low enough premium to justify coverage you don't use that much? How is the prescription drug coverage? What is the co-pay model? How is the emergency and surgical coverage if you anticipate needing these services?
- Do you have provider network requirements? Some providers only work with certain health insurance networks. If you have a doctor you want to keep, or a certain specialist you need to see, you'll want to look at if those providers work with an insurance plan before you sign up for it. Also, it's worth knowing if an insurance provider requires referrals for specialists before you choose a plan.
The Average Cost of Health Insurance
The price you’ll pay for health insurance will vary depending on your age. As you get older, your medical care costs typically increase and you’ll pay more for insurance.
The average monthly premium for health insurance for an individual falls into these average ranges:
|18 to 24||$180|
|25 to 34||$240|
|35 to 44||$300|
|45 to 54||$400|
|55 to 64||$580|
What Does Health Insurance Typically Cover?
Long-term health insurance plans are legally required to offer some form of coverage for the 10 essential benefits laid out by the ACA. No matter which ACA Marketplace plan you purchase, you’ll have coverage for at least the following:
- Ambulatory patient services, including care that you receive without being admitted to the hospital
- Emergency services at any hospital, regardless of whether the hospital is in your network
- Hospitalization, including planned surgeries and overnight stays
- Prescription drugs
- Treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders, including both inpatient and outpatient treatments and therapies
- Pregnancy, maternity and newborn care, including breastfeeding support
- Rehabilitative and habilitative services and treatments required to regain physical or cognitive abilities after you’re injured or to treat a chronic condition
- Preventive and wellness services, including vaccinations and routine physicals
- Lab work and blood tests
- Pediatric services for kids for all of the above-listed services, plus dental and vision services
If you’re a female, your insurance provider also needs to cover all forms of birth control approved by the FDA. This includes barrier methods, hormonal methods and emergency contraceptives. Your insurance may not extend to birth control if you get your health insurance through an employer registered as a church or religious nonprofit.
These essential benefits only apply to long-term plans you purchase on the ACA Marketplace. If you buy a short term plan outside of the Marketplace, your insurance provider may pick and choose which services are covered. Almost every short term plan excludes coverage for prescription drugs and maternity care, and you can also be denied coverage for a preexisting condition. Before you enroll in a short term plan, be 100% sure you know what your plan covers.
What Does Health Insurance Not Cover?
Even the best ACA health insurance plan won’t cover everything. Let’s take a look at some common exclusions you might see on your health insurance policy:
- Cosmetic surgery: No insurance plan will cover elective or nonessential surgery.
- Dental and vision services for adults: Under the ACA, your insurance provider only needs to cover dental and vision services for the children included in your plan. If you’d like to add these coverages for adults on your plan, you’ll typically be able to purchase an additional plan through your insurance company.
- Weight-loss surgery: There is currently no federal requirement that compels insurance companies to cover bariatric surgery, even if it’s deemed medically necessary. However, a number of states have introduced their own requirements.
- Non-routine vaccinations: Your insurance provider is only required to cover vaccinations and boosters considered routine by the CDC. If you need a nonroutine vaccine before travel (like yellow fever or hepatitis A vaccines), you’ll probably need to cover it out of pocket.
- Male birth control: The ACA’s birth control requirement only extends to female contraceptives. Health insurance plans rarely cover male forms of birth control.
If you buy a short term plan, your list of excluded services will be much longer. Read your policy’s terms before you buy to make sure you have the benefits you need.
Protect Your Health with the Right Insurance
Getting health insurance doesn’t need to be complicated or overly expensive. Begin by collecting a few quotes in your area customized with your date of birth and ZIP code. You might be surprised at just how affordable it is to find a plan for your family.
Frequently Asked Questions
In 2020, the average monthly health insurance premium was $456 for an individual on an ACA-compliant plan.
A health insurance premium is the monthly amount that you’ll pay every month to keep your insurance coverage current. Your premium is due every month, even if you don’t use your insurance benefits. Insurance premiums vary depending on your age, plan benefits, location and whether you use tobacco.