Best Health Insurance Companies

  • Centene
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  • Cigna
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Humana

Rankings for the best health insurance companies were identified in partnership with Insure.com, which analyzed the 15 leading issuers of health insurance and surveyed more than 2,800 home, condo, and renters insurance customers.

Each company was rated based on price, customer service, website, and mobile app, and customer recommendation while also considering the ratings of A.M. Best. (A.M. Best financial ratings are assessed based on the insurer’s ability to fulfill their financial obligations to policyholders.)

Centene

Centene is the largest Medicaid managed-care insurer in the U.S. It is ranked highly for price, claims and customer service.

Individual healthcare plans are offered through the Ambetter brand. The plans are designed for lower-income individuals and families that may not qualify for Medicaid or other government coverage.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Blue Cross and Blue Shield is among the biggest health insurance companies with large provider networks nationwide. That often means members can access in-network providers outside of their state.

Blue Cross Blue Shield offers an array of plans that include HMOs, EPOs, and PPOs. Access to HSAs and FSAs is also available.

Cigna

Cigna offers a range of health insurance options and it has a major presence in the employer plan market. 

Noteworthy member benefits include home delivery pharmacy, telehealth programs, and rewards programs.

Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is a nonprofit insurer known for budget-friendly options and it ranks highly in terms of financial stability and customer service. 

Their HMO plans feature low premiums, copays, and prescription costs. There’s the option to add an HSA for high-deductible plans, which can help pay for qualifying healthcare expenses.

Humana

Humana is touted for great access to primary and specialty care, including plans for people with chronic health conditions or special needs. The insurer offers wellness programs that allow members to reduce their monthly premiums by exercising and eating better.

Unfortunately, Humana only offers group life insurance plans -- individual health insurance options are not available.


Compare Types of Health Insurance Plans

Learn about the different types of health insurance plans and how they work.

HMO (health maintenance organization)

With an HMO, you have to stay within the network for coverage (except in the case of emergencies) and visits to specialists will often require referrals from your primary doctor.

The upside is that it tends to be the most affordable, especially with lower out-of-pocket costs when you visit in-network healthcare providers.

PPO (preferred provider organization)

With a PPO, you don’t have to stay in the network to get coverage and visits to specialists do not require referrals. The greater freedom to choose your providers often means higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

The big advantage is that you can go to any doctor you want without worry about coverage. This is very useful:

  • If you favor a particular provider
  • If you have limited options in your area
  • When you don’t have much choice in times of emergency

EPO (exclusive provider organization)

An EPO requires you to stay within the network for coverage (except in the case of emergencies) but you don’t need a referral to see a specialist.

EPO plans allow you to minimize costs as long as you use in-network providers.

POS (point-of-sale)

POS plans require you to obtain referrals from your primary care doctor before seeing a specialist. But, you pay less out-of-pocket costs if you stick with providers in the plan’s network.

It is similar to a PPO plan without the referral requirement.

How to Choose the Right Health Insurance Plan

For many people, choosing a healthcare plan is a bit of a chore because the process often entails some work and research. The decision is not as simple as picking the plan with the lowest premiums.

1. Review your medical needs.

Your current health and/or existing health conditions will likely determine the type of medical care required.

If you have no major health issues and just need regular check-ups, you might go with a plan that has low monthly premiums but high out-of-pocket costs -- because you’ll rarely need to pay these costs.

On the other hand:

If you visit a doctor frequently, require medication regularly, plan to have a baby, have a chronic condition, or expect surgeries, you’ll prefer a plan that covers much of these costs (but, it’ll likely have high monthly premiums).

2. Research providers that are in-network.

After you review your anticipated medical needs, it’s time to look up providers in your area that are part of the health insurance company’s network.

You may have a doctor that you really like or like the liberty of switching doctors easily and HMOs, for instance, would not be ideal as they may limit your options significantly.

Or, there are no healthcare providers nearby that offer the medical services that you require, so you may be forced into a PPO plan.

Every health insurance company will have a directory of in-network providers. You can also ask providers whether they are in-network or not.

3. Compare out-of-pocket costs and premiums.

Once you’ve identified the potential plans that you’d consider, compare the out-of-pocket costs.

Every plan will have a summary of benefits that list out how much you’d pay for services.

Key terms to know:

Going back to your medical needs, refer to the summary of benefits to see which services may require you to pay out-of-pocket costs.

Then, consider the premiums.

Usually, plans with lower premiums have higher out-of-pocket costs while plans with higher premiums have lower out-of-pocket costs.

4. Pick the plan with the lowest long-term costs.

Finally, you want to account for the whole picture.

Based on your anticipated healthcare needs, you should aim to pick the health insurance plan that will cost you the least over the next 12 months.

If you are in good health, you may be okay with a plan that has lower premiums and high out-of-pocket costs (i.e., HMO).

If you are highly selective about your doctors and hospitals or prefer flexibility with switching providers, then a PPO plan may be the best choice.

If you have existing conditions or anticipate certain medical services, it would be wise to look at all the plans because you could end up saving more money with a higher-premium plan that has lower out-of-pocket costs.

Considerations for Family Members

Another major factor that plays a role in choosing your health insurance provider will be how these plans cover your family members.

The same considerations are in place when selecting the best plan for your family situation. 

For instance, if you’ve got several health conditions between yourself, children, and spouse, you might opt for a higher-premium plan to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

You may also consider adding a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to the mix if you will have additional medical costs to cover due to the health of you and your family members. FSAs use pre-tax money to cover things like copayments, deductibles, some drugs, and some other health care costs—which can be helpful in a situation where your family uses medical services and products frequently. 

Eligibility

Also, you need to make sure that the people in your family are eligible to be added to your insurance as covered family members. 

Although requirements may vary across providers and employers, here are common standards for family members to qualify as a dependent on your health insurance plan:

  • Legal spouse
  • Biological children and stepchildren
  • Legally adopted children and children placed with you or your covered spouse for adoption
  • Children for whom you and your spouse have been appointed legal guardian
  • Disabled dependent children older than age 26 who meet specific criteria

Key Health Insurance Terms

Open enrollment

This is the period of time where you can make changes to your job’s benefits’ elections such as health, vision and dental insurance plans.

Typically, it occurs once a year, lasts a few days and most often occurs sometimes in the fourth quarter.

Unless there is a qualifying life event life (i.e., marriage, divorce, etc.), you cannot change your plan’s elections until the next open enrollment period.

Special enrollment period

The open enrollment period is the time window when you can make changes to your job’s benefits’ elections outside of the open enrollment period due to a qualifying life event.

Although qualifying life events will vary from plan to plan and employer to employer, here are some common examples of qualifying life events:

  • Divorced or legally separated and lost health insurance
  • The death of the responsible party that previously covered you on their insurance plan
  • Having a baby
  • Adopting a child
  • Turning 26

Typically, there is a maximum amount of time, i.e., 60 days, that can pass after this event that qualifies you to make changes to your health insurance plan.

Premiums

Your health insurance premium is the amount you pay monthly for your health insurance plan.

If you get insurance coverage through your employer, your insurance premium may be deducted directly from your paycheck with pre-tax money. Additionally, your employer may cover all or part of your premiums.

Copay

A copay is a fixed amount you pay for a health care service, usually when you receive the service.

The amount depends on the type of service and can be set by your insurance provider. You should be able to log onto your plan’s website or using the mobile app to see your plan’s copays.

Coinsurance

Coinsurance is your share of the costs for a particular health care service.

It's usually a percentage of the amount the provider charges for services. In most cases, you start paying coinsurance after you've paid your plan's deductible.

Deductible

A deductible is a set amount you may be required to pay out of pocket before your health insurance plan begins to pay for covered costs.

Out-of-pocket maximum

An out-of-pocket maximum limits the amount of money you have to pay for covered health care services in a plan year.

If you have a serious illness or chronic health condition that requires frequent medical care, the out of pocket maximum can help you keep your healthcare costs to a minimum.

Health savings account (HSA)

Available exclusively to those with a qualifying high-deductible health plan, health savings accounts allow you to save pre-tax dollars for future qualified medical expenses.

Some people like this combination to decrease monthly healthcare insurance premiums.

Flexible spending account (FSA)

A Flexible Spending Account (also known as a flexible spending arrangement) allows you to put pre-tax money aside to pay for certain out-of-pocket health care costs.

At present, you can contribute $2,750 per year per employer, and the funds must be used up by the end of each year.

Some employers allow a "grace period" of up to 2 ½ extra months and the ability to carry over $550 into the following year.

COBRA

COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.

It's a federal law created in 1985 to give people who experience a job loss or other life qualifying event the option to continue their current health insurance coverage for a set period of time.