Best Health Insurance Companies
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield
- Kaiser Permanente
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 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 offers a range of health insurance options and it has a major presence in the employer plan market.
Noteworthy members benefits include home delivery pharmacy, telehealth programs, and rewards programs.
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 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 (exception 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 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:
- Deductible: the amount you pay before the insurance plans starts to pay
- Copayment: a flat fee paid to the provider for a visit or prescription
- Coinsurance: the percentage of costs paid by you after meeting the deductible
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 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 all the plans because you could end up saving more money with a higher-premium plan that has lower out-of-pocket costs.