Best Cheap Illinois Medicare Plans

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Contributor, Benzinga
Updated: July 22, 2021

Compare Medicare Advantage plans and quote side-by-side to get the best rate here.

Some ages come with the best milestones. At 13, you’re officially a teenager. At 16, you can drive a car. At 18, you’re an adult and can vote. At 21, you can order a beer or wine. And 30, 40, 50 and 60 mark decades. At 65, you’re eligible for Medicare. Exciting or not, it’s an important milestone.

The Best Medicare in Illinois:

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a national health insurance program created to give health insurance to people 65 and older. Medicare is also available to people with permanent disabilities, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (AMS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and end-stage renal disease. 

Medicare is offered in 4 parts. You choose the part or parts that best suits you. Let’s take a look at these:

Part A: Otherwise known as “hospital insurance,” Part A helps you with hospital expenses. Hospital-related expenses include inpatient care, overnight hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, home health care and hospice care. 

Part B: Often referred to as “medical insurance,” Part B supports your outpatient expenses for visits to a nurse or doctor, medical services like X-rays and dialysis, tests and some medical-related equipment.

Part C: Also known as Medicare Advantage, Part C is an all-in-one plan that includes Part A, Part B and usually, Part D. Medicare Advantage gives you benefits through private health plans. Importantly, if you enroll in a Medicare Part C plan, you need to stay within the provider network.

Part D: Part D covers your prescription medications. Similar to private health care, you get lower rates on prescription drugs. However you decide to cover your health expenses with Parts A and B, you’ll also want to check into Medicare Part D plans. The same is true for Medicare Part C. Though Part C typically includes coverage for prescriptions, it doesn’t always include that benefit.

In retirement, most people need to keep a close eye on their expenses. Health insurance is a major expense. Although Medicare is funded by the U.S. government, the premiums and out-of-pocket expenses can still put some strain on your bank account. If you believe your expenses are in danger of depleting your wallet, Medicare supplemental insurance is a good way to ease the strain. 

Medicare supplemental insurance is also referred to as Medigap coverage. It helps you find coverage for shortfalls in traditional Medicare insurance.

Legalities of Medicare in Illinois

The federal government funds a free local health insurance counseling resource that’s available via a state program called SHIP, or State Health Insurance Assistance Program. In Illinois, the Department on Aging administers SHIP.

SHIP provides those who qualify for Medicare counseling and assistance choosing the plan or combination of plans that best fit their needs and budget. But those who are Medicare-eligible aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of SHIP. Anyone assisting (family, friends, caregivers) to a Medicare beneficiary can access SHIP. 

One of the best things about SHIP? It’s staffed with trained volunteers who aren’t affiliated with any health insurance companies. SHIP counselors act as a guide for the Medicare enrollment process. And, because they are immersed in Medicare they’re sure to know helpful tidbits of information. You can contact SHIP directly at 800-252-8966, email AGING.SHIP@illinois.gov, or visit its website

Types of Medicare Advantage Plans

Private companies approved by Medicare offer Medicare Advantage Plans. Medicare pays these companies to cover your Medicare benefits. Medicare Advantage Plans provide Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B coverage. 

At a glance, you might think all of the acronyms associated with Medicare Advantage Plans are a bowl of alphabet soup. So, let’s take a closer look at the types of plans available.

Health maintenance organization (HMO): In most HMOs, you need to stay within the provider network. That means that you can only go to doctors, other health care providers or hospitals predetermined by the plan. Of course, in an emergency, you can go anywhere. Additionally, you’ll also need a referral from your primary care physician (PCP) for tests or to see a specialist.

Preferred provider organization (PPO): PPOs are a bit less restrictive than HMOs. PPOs give you access to a network of doctors, clinics and hospitals. But, you can use providers that are outside of the PPO network. Note that if you choose to go out-of-network, you’ll pay more.

Private fee-for-service (PFFS): These plans are similar to regular Medicare. You can go to any doctor or hospital, but you need to make sure they accept the PFFS plan’s payment terms. A PFFS decides how much it will pay for services and how much you’ll pay. 

HMO Point-of-Service (HMO-POS): This is an HMO plan that lets you go out of network for some services. When you do decide to go stray from the network, you’ll pay a higher copay. 

Medical savings account (MSA): This plan combines a high-deductible health plan with a bank account. Medicare deposits money into the account. You use the money in the account to pay for your health care. Importantly, MSA plans don’t provide prescription drug coverage. If you want coverage for prescription drugs, you’ll need to enroll in Medicare Part D.

How to Sign Up for Medicare in Illinois

Although you’re eligible for Medicare insurance when you turn 65, you can sign up 3 months before or after your birthday — even if you don’t plan to retire and receive benefits straight away. You can choose to opt-out of receiving cash retirement benefits when you’re filling out the application online. The online application allows you to sign up for Medicare Parts A and B. You can refrain from Part B coverage to skip the premium payment.

You enroll for Medicare through the Social Security Administration. Both Medicare.gov and SSA.gov provide practical information and useful guides when you’re ready to sign up for Medicare. Following are the basic steps: 

  1. Go to ssa.gov to enroll.
  2. Decide if you want Part A and Part B or Part C.
  3. Keep track and on-task with the Medicare checklist. The checklist helps make certain you’re getting the most out of your coverage.

Average Cost of Medicare Advantage Plans in Illinois

Medicare.gov’s plan finder helps you find available plans. Simply enter your ZIP code and answer a few quick questions. The site will automatically populate with available plans. After perusing what’s available, you can compare up to 3 plans at a time. For demonstration purposes, below is a table of results after entering the ZIP code for Naperville.

Plan NameCompanyAnnual Premium(approx.)Health DeductibleDrug DeductibleStar Rating (Out of 5 Stars)
Humana Gold Plus (HMO)Humana$1,735$0$04.5
Cigna-HealthSpring Advantage (HMO)Cigna$1,735$0N/A3.5
WellCare Essential (HMO-POS)WellCare$1,735$0$03
AARP Medicare Advantage Choice (PPO)UnitedHealthcare$2,191$0$1954.5
Blue Cross Medicare Advantage Choice Premier (PPO)Blue Cross and Blue Shield$3,427$0$03

The table above is for example only and doesn’t include factors like doctor visit copays and maximum out-of-pocket amounts.

Best Medicare Insurance Providers in Illinois

When deciding on a medicare advantage plan, there are lots of factors to consider. Your needs top that list. The following are some sound options for Illinois Medicare.  

Aetna Health Insurance
Best For
  • Member support

1. Best Overall in Illinois: Aetna

Aetna is a highly accessible health care provider and one of the largest in Illinois. It provides benefits that enhance your total health and fit your life. Many of Aetna’s Medicare Advantage plans include dental and vision benefits. It also makes some impressive benefits available. Lifestyle benefits include access to local resources, SliverSneakers (health and fitness program) membership and care management help.

Aetna also adds convenience to the mix with home delivery of prescription drugs and an ask-a-nurse line that’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To top things off, Aetna provides many no cost, over-the-counter medications and meal delivery after staying at the hospital. The National Committee for Quality Assurance* (NCQA) rates Aetna Medicare a 4 (out of 5) on its list of top Medicare providers in Illinois. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) gives it an A+ rating. 

Cigna Medicare Advantage
Best For
  • Easy access to benefits
securely through Cigna Medicare Advantage's website

2. Most Affordable in Illinois: Cigna

Cigna offers some of the most affordable Medicare Advantage plans in Illinois. It touts low monthly premiums, all-in-one plans and a team approach to your health needs. Cigna combines all the Medicare coverage into one comprehensive offering. In addition to what you expect from a Medicare Advantage plan, it also makes fitness programs and health coaching available.

At Cigna, “pharmacists and case managers work closely with your doctors and specialists to improve your health and treatment plan.” Cigna earns an A+ from the BBB. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Insurance
Best For
  • Nationwide coverage
securely through Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Insurance's website

3. Best for Availability: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) of Illinois offers HMO, HMO-POS and PPO Medicare Advantage plans. As one of the larger health insurance providers in the Land of Lincoln, you’ll have a good-sized network of doctors and hospitals for you to choose from. With 3 types of plans, you have options to find the best features and price to fit your needs and budget.

BCBS plans deliver many benefits and extras including dental, hearing and vision coverage. Additional benefits include membership in the SilverSneakers program, rides to appointments and rewards for completing health actions. Finally, BCBS Illinois wants you to use your plan efficiently and effectively so it offers resources to get the most out of your plan.

UnitedHealthCare Health Insurance
Best For
  • Same day coverage available

4. Best for AARP Members: UnitedHealthcare

Membership comes with privileges. And that’s definitely the case with AARP. AARP members get exclusive access to UnitedHealthcare (UHC) Medicare Advantage plans. UHC plans feature one-on-one support while choosing and using your plan, free vision and dental exams, and low or no copays for prescription drugs and doctor visits.

As a bonus, plenty of its plans also include house calls, a nurse line available 24 hours a day, 7-days a week, and transportation. Not surprising for an association focused on the well-being of retired people, AARP through UHC promotes total wellness. Plan members can earn rewards with RenewActive and have access to a gym membership. UnitedHealth Group, the parent company of UHC, earns an A+ from the BBB and a 3.5 rating from NCQA.

Humana Medicare Advantage
Best For
  • Medicare Advantage Plans

5. Best for Perks that Work: Humana

Humana Medicare Advantage plans provide a substantial amount of coverage. Standard coverage includes doctor and specialist visits, preventive care (including vaccines), outpatient services, emergency transportation and medical supplies and equipment. Humana also provides an allowance for over-the-counter medications, rewards for healthy habits, telehealth services, worldwide emergency coverage, and tools and resources to help you manage your meds.

Humana “meets you where you are” and helps you get to where you want to be, whether it’s coping with a chronic illness, getting more active or dealing with surgery.  Newsweek ranks Humana as No. 1 in member satisfaction and it earned an NCQA rating of 4.  

The Best is Yet to Come  

Whatever milestone you’ve marked or look forward to, one thing is for sure: You want to live your best life. Now. Taking care of your health and wellness is an important element in living your best every moment. Medicare Advantage plans offer care and service options to help you do just that. 

Give some thought to what you need and want, and find the plan that’s the best fit. And, when you reach the plan that’s best for you, you’ve attained an important retirement milestone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q
1) Q: What are the different parts of Medicare?
A

Medicare has 4 parts named Parts A, B, C, and D. Part A provides hospitalization coverage while Part B provides outpatient coverage, like doctor visits. Parts A and B make up Medicare’s core coverages. Part C is provides private-market Medicare plans, called Medicare Advantage Plans. Part C coverage often includes additional benefits. Medicare Part D provides coverage for prescription drugs. Get a Medicare Insurance Quote through the top providers here.

Q
2) Q: Is Medicare free?
A

Because there are 4 parts to Medicare, there can be different cost structures. Most people won’t have to pay for Medicare Part A (hospitalization). Eligibility for premium-free Part A is based on your work history during which you paid Medicare taxes. Many people do pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part B, however, which covers outpatient medical services, like doctor visits. Deductibles also apply to services covered under Medicare Parts A and B, so you’ll pay a part of the annual cost.

Medicare Parts C and D are optional coverages and have premium costs of their own. Medicare Part C refers to Medicare Advantage Plans that offer additional coverage in exchange for a monthly premium. Part D, the prescription plan, reduces the cost of medications but also requires a monthly premium. Subsidies may be available for low income households to help reduce overall Medicare costs.

Q
3) Q: Do I need to sign up for Medicare?
A

If you signed up for Social Security before age 65, you were enrolled in Medicare automatically but benefits will begin at age 65. In most cases, there are penalties for not enrolling at age 65, so it pays to sign up on time. Click here to get a medicare quote in minutes from the best providers. 

If you have employer coverage, you may be able to delay Medicare coverage while your work plan is still in force. However, the size of the employer determines whether you’ll pay a penalty for not enrolling at age 65. Employees (and their spouses) of companies that offer group health insurance to 20 or more people are usually exempt from late sign-up penalties if they are covered by the employer’s plan.