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Insurance and Healthcare Consultant

Tammy Burns is an experienced health insurance advisor. She is ACA-certified for health insurance and other ancillary, life, and annuity product.

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When looking for affordable health insurance, you’ll find many options. These include your employer, the Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicaid, and Medicare. Several states have a state marketplace. Choosing the right health insurance plan is a key decision that affects your finances and health. Take time to research and compare benefits to determine which plan is best. Points to consider include:

  • Monthly premium
  • Benefits offered
  • Customer service and satisfaction
  • Value for money

Read on to discover the pros and cons of the top 10 best affordable health insurance companies.

What You Should Know About Affordable Health Insurance Plans

  • Affordable is defined as no more than 9.5% of your household income: If you’re on a group employer plan, your individual premium can’t cost more than 9.5% of your household income. That doesn’t include your spouse or dependents.
  • Anyone can apply on the Health Insurance Marketplace: The Health Insurance Marketplace is your route to affordable insurance, whether you’re shopping for individual coverage, want to apply for Medicaid, or need to compare your options against what your employer offers.
  • You may qualify for government assistance: Through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you may qualify for a subsidy, which offsets the cost of your monthly premiums. Depending on your income and demographics, you may qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. If you’re 65 or older or have a qualifying disability, you may be eligible for Medicaid.
Health insurance company Financial strength rating Customer satisfaction rating Value rating Coverage rating Overall rating
Aetna: Best for customer service 5 4.8 4.8 4.8 4.8
Anthem: Best value 5 3 4 4 4
Blue Cross Blue Shield: Best for nationwide coverage 5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.6
Cigna: Best for coverage options 4.5 4.1 4 4 4.2
Highmark: Best for coverage options 4.5 4 4 4 4.1
Humana: Best for over fifties 4 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.4
Kaiser Permanente: Best for high NCQA ratings 5 4.5 4.8 4 4.6
Molina Healthcare: Best for underserved populations 5 3 3 4 3.8
UnitedHealthcare: Best for plan options 4 4.8 4.8 4.8 4.6
WellCare: Best for Medicare 3.5 4 4.2 4.5 4

How We Rate Health Insurance Companies

Financial strength: The financial strength rating uses the insurance company’s AM Best financial strength rating. AM Best is a credit rating agency specializing in the insurance industry, which rates an insurer’s ability to meet ongoing obligations.

Customer satisfaction: The customer satisfaction rating considers Kaiser Permanente’s Better Business Bureau, National Committee for Quality Assurance, and Consumer Affairs ratings. These ratings use customer complaints and satisfaction ratings.

Value: The value rating calculates an insurer’s overall value based on monthly premium, annual deductible, office visit cost, ER visit cost, and annual maximum out-of-pocket cost.

Coverage: The coverage rating considers the insurer’s availability of coverages, plan types, and network size.

What is the Best Affordable Health Insurance?

Choosing the best affordable health insurance starts with determining your eligibility. Eligibility for health insurance depends upon several factors, including household income and family size. In addition, you must live in the United States and be a U.S. citizen, national, or lawfully residing in the country. You can’t be denied insurance for pre-existing conditions.

  • Employer group health insurance: You can get coverage through your employer if the company offers health insurance. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), 47% of employers provide health insurance. Large companies with more than 50 full-time employees must offer health insurance or pay tax penalties. Smaller companies can provide healthcare insurance through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). Employer health insurance is generally cheaper than individual insurance. If you have employer health insurance, you can use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to save pre-tax dollars to cover deductibles and copayments. However, you can’t keep your insurance when you leave except through COBRA, and you have limited choice regarding benefits.
  • Individual and family insurance: You can purchase coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace or from private health insurers in your state. You must apply during the Open Enrollment period that runs from November 1 through to December 15. You may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period under qualifying circumstances, such as if you’ve lost your job, moved, changed employment, or got married. If you buy health insurance through the marketplace, you may qualify for an Advance Premium Tax Credit that effectively lowers insurance premiums.
  • Medicare: Medicare insurance is for people over 65 and those with certain disabilities. Original Medicare covers hospitalization and preventive care. A Medicare Advantage Plan is an all-in-one alternative to Original Medicare. Medicare has options for prescription drugs and additional coverage, such as dentistry. If you don’t sign up when eligible, you may face penalties and experience delays before coverage takes effect. In addition, deductibles may be high if you don’t have Medigap cover or a Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Medicaid: Medicaid provides healthcare coverage for low-income adults, pregnant women, children, and older adults with disabilities. Medicaid eligibility depends on several factors, including income, household size, and family status. Individual states manage Medicaid, and eligibility and benefits differ according to whether the state has extended Medicaid. However, cover and care are comparable with private health insurance, and Medicaid supports premiums for low-income qualifiers on Medicare.
  • CHIP: If you earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford private health insurance, you can enlist your children in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Individual states administer CHIP. Mandatory cover includes well-baby and well-child visits, dental benefits, vaccines, and behavioral health.

Aetna Health Insurance: Best for customer service

Aetna Medicare Insurance Logo

Company Overview
Overall rating 4.8
Company founded 1853
Coverage area All 50 states
A.M. Best rating A+
BBB rating A+
NCQA accreditation Yes
NCQA rating 4.5 to 2.5
Plans available
  • Dental
  • Family health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Pharmacy
  • Vision
Provider network
  • About 1.2 million health care professionals
  • Over 700,000 primary care doctors and specialists
  • Over 5,700 hospitals nationwide

Aetna is one of the oldest and largest health insurance companies on the market. Founded in 1853, it started offering medical insurance in 1951. Aetna offers health insurance policies in 50 states. These include individual, group, Medicare, and Medicare Advantage plans. Aetna is one of the most successful health insurance companies in the country, offering good customer service.

Is Aetna a Good Health Insurance Provider?

What we like about Aetna health insurance plans: The drawbacks of Aetna health insurance plans:
  • Available in 50 states
  • Wide range of plans including HMO, PPO, POS, and EPO
  • Good customer and treatment ratings
  • Prevention ratings could be better
  • Out of network costs higher

What do Aetna Health Insurance Plans Cover?

Aetna Health offers several health insurance options:

  • Dental
  • Family health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Pharmacy
  • Vision

How is Aetna Rated?

Trusted ratings and reviews can help you understand how an insurer’s plans stack up against the competition. See how we rated Aetna.

Financial strength rating: 5 Customer satisfaction rating: 4.8 Value rating: 4.8 Coverage rating: 4.8

Anthem Health Insurance: Best value

Anthem Logo

Company Overview
Overall rating 4
Company founded 2004
Coverage area 25 states
A.M. Best rating A+
BBB rating F
NCQA accreditation Yes
NCQA rating 4.5 to 2.5
Plans available
  • Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP)
  • Dental
  • Group insurance plans
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare Advantage Plans
  • Vision
Provider network Large

Anthem is ranked number three in market share with policies in 25 states. Apart from standard health insurance plans, Anthem offers a selection of special insurance policies for hospital indemnity, critical illness, and limited-term enhanced choice. The company has an extensive network of primary care providers. You can expect good customer service, but note that some policies, including Medicaid and Medicare, aren’t available in all states.

Is Anthem a Good Health Insurance Provider?

What we like about Anthem health insurance plans: The drawbacks of Anthem health insurance plans:
  • Available in 25 states
  • Wide range of plans including HMO, PPO, POS, and EPO
  • Ranked number three in market share
  • The overall rating for Medicaid policies is average
  • Medicaid only available in four states

What do Anthem Health Insurance Plans Cover?

Anthem Health offers several health insurance options:

  • Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP)
  • Dental
  • Group insurance plans
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare Advantage Plans
  • Vision

How is Anthem Rated?

Trusted ratings and reviews can help you understand how an insurer’s plans stack up against the competition. See how we rated Anthem.

Financial strength rating: 5 Customer satisfaction rating: 3 Value rating: 4 Coverage rating: 4

Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Insurance: Best for nationwide coverage

Blue Cross Blue Shield Logo

Company Overview
Overall rating 4.6
Company founded 1929
Coverage area All 50 states
A.M. Best rating A+
BBB rating A+
NCQA accreditation Yes
NCQA rating 4 to 3
Plans available
  • Corporate health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Group insurance plans
  • Health savings accounts
  • High-deductible health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • Small business health insurance
Provider network More than 1.7 million doctors and hospitals

Blue Cross Blue Shield is one of the largest health insurers covering all 50 states. A unique aspect is that Blue Cross Blue Shield consists of an association of 35 independent companies. While this means service standards may differ from one region to another, overall, BSBC’s pricing plans, services, and discounts are among the best.

Is Blue Cross Blue Shield a Good Health Insurance Provider?

What we like about Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plans: The drawbacks of Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plans:
  • Available in all 50 states
  • Covers more than 110 million Americans
  • Excellent provider network
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield operates as many independent companies
  • Inconsistent customer experience

What do Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Insurance Plans Cover?

Blue Cross Blue Shield offers several health insurance options:

  • Corporate health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Group insurance plans
  • Health savings accounts
  • High-deductible health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • Small business health insurance

How is Blue Cross Blue Shield Rated?

Trusted ratings and reviews can help you understand how an insurer’s plans stack up against the competition. See how we rated Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Financial strength rating: 5 Customer satisfaction rating: 4.5 Value rating: 4.5 Coverage rating: 4.5

Cigna Health Insurance: Best for coverage options

Cigna Logo

Company Overview
Overall rating 4.1
Company founded 1981
Coverage area
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Virginia
A.M. Best rating A
BBB rating A-
NCQA accreditation Yes
NCQA rating 4 to 2.5
Plans available
  • Dental and vision plans
  • Group health insurance (PPO, HMO, Open Access, customized local plans, high-deductible health plans)
  • Health and wellness programs
  • Individual and family insurance
  • Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Supplement Insurance plans
  • Pharmacy programs
  • Savings and spending accounts (HSA, FSA)
  • Supplemental plans
Provider network
  • Global network of over 1.5 million health care providers, clinics, and facilities
  • Over 67,000 contracted pharmacies

Cigna is a large health insurance company operating in the U.S. and Europe. The company began in 1981 through the merger between INA Corporation and Connecticut General Corporation. It offers a range of standard health insurance policies in a limited number of states, and its Medicare prescription drug and Medigap insurance network covers most of the country. Cigna policies offer excellent coverage in a strong healthcare provider network, including pharmacies and behavioral health providers.

Is Cigna a Good Health Insurance Provider?

What we like about Cigna health insurance plans: The drawbacks of Cigna health insurance plans:
  • Out-of-network approvals not required in most plans
  • Contracted with a large number of healthcare providers and pharmacies
  • Robust and easy-to-use customer portal
  • Full coverage only available in certain states
  • Complaints ratio slightly higher than other insurers

What do Cigna Health Insurance Plans Cover?

Cigna offers a wide range of individual and group health insurance plans:

  • Dental and vision plans
  • Group health insurance (PPO, HMO, Open Access, customized local plans, high-deductible health plans)
  • Health and wellness programs
  • Individual and family insurance
  • Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Supplement Insurance plans
  • Pharmacy programs
  • Savings and spending accounts (HSA, FSA)
  • Supplemental plans

How is Cigna Rated?

Trusted ratings and reviews can help you understand how an insurer’s plans stack up against the competition. See how we rated Cigna.

Financial strength rating: 4.5 Customer satisfaction rating: 4.1 Value rating: 4 Coverage rating: 4

Highmark Health Insurance: Best for plan selection

Highmark Logo

Company Overview
Overall rating 4.1
Company founded 1996
Coverage area
  • Delaware
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
A.M. Best rating A
BBB rating A-
NCQA accreditation Yes
NCQA rating 4 to 3.5
Plans available
  • CHIP
  • Dental
  • Individual and family plans
  • Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Supplement Insurance
  • Travel
  • Vision
Provider network Large

Highmark Health is a large independent insurer and licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The company sells policies in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia, with limited availability in New York. The company maintains the high standards set by Blue Cross Blue Shield. As a result, the company has a good reputation and a high renewal rate.

Is Highmark a Good Health Insurance Provider?

What we like about Highmark Health insurance plans: The drawbacks of Highmark Health insurance plans:
  • High customer satisfaction
  • Good provider network
  • Blue Shield participator
  • Plans offered to customers vary by state and county
  • Available in only four states
  • Website not user friendly

What do Highmark Health Insurance Plans Cover?

Health insurance plans offered by Highmark include:

  • CHIP
  • Dental
  • Individual and family plans
  • Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Supplement Insurance
  • Travel
  • Vision

How is Highmark Rated?

Trusted ratings and reviews can help you understand how an insurer’s plans stack up against the competition. See how we rated Highmark.

Financial strength rating: 4.5 Customer satisfaction rating: 4 Value rating: 4 Coverage rating: 4

Humana Health Insurance: Best for over fifties

Humana Logo

Company Overview
Overall rating 4.4
Company founded 1961
Coverage area All 50 States
A.M. Best rating A-
BBB rating A+
NCQA accreditation Yes
NCQA rating 4 to 2.5
Plans available
  • Dental
  • Employer group health insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Supplement Insurance
  • Vision
  • Pharmacy
Provider network Large

Established in 1961, Humana offers an array of HMO, PPO, and PFFS plans in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. It’s one of the most popular employer health plans, but it no longer offers individual or family medical insurance plans. Humana has a reputation for high-quality plans. Customer satisfaction levels are high.

Is Humana a Good Health Insurance Provider?

What we like about Humana Health insurance plans: The drawbacks of Humana Health insurance plans:
  • Large provider network
  • Available in all 50 states
  • Good coverage for adults over 50
  • Negative customer feedback on some plans
  • Doesn’t offer individual health insurance
  • Custom plans relatively expensive

What do Humana Health Insurance Plans Cover?

Humana insurance options include:

  • Dental
  • Employer group health insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Supplement Insurance
  • Vision
  • Pharmacy

How is Humana Rated?

Trusted ratings and reviews can help you understand how an insurer’s plans stack up against the competition. See how we rated Humana.

Financial strength rating: 4 Customer satisfaction rating: 4.5 Value rating: 4.5 Coverage rating: 4.5

Kaiser Permanente Health Insurance: Best for high NCQA rating

Kaiser Permanente Logo 2

Company Overview
Overall rating 4.6
Company founded 1945
Coverage area
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Oregon
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.
A.M. Best rating A+
BBB rating A
NCQA accreditation Yes
NCQA rating 5 to 4
Plans available
  • Employer plans
  • Family health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicaid/Medi-Cal
  • Medicare
Provider network More than 22,000 Permanente Medical Group physicians and clinicians

Kaiser Permanente is one of the largest nonprofit health insurance companies. It was founded in 1945 in the shipyards during WWII. The secret of success was its prepaid approach that funded medical facilities and staff. This approach still holds today with its extensive physician and hospital network. As a result, service quality is high, while costs are low.

Is Kaiser Permanente a Good Health Insurance Provider?

What we like about Kaiser Permanente health insurance plans: The drawbacks of Kaiser Permanente health insurance plans:
  • Simple enrollment process
  • Highly rated by members
  • Most Medicare Advantage plans have no deductibles
  • Policies sold in only nine states
  • Members restricted to Kaiser approved providers and centers
  • Limited policy options

What do Kaiser Permanente Health Insurance Plans Cover?

Kaiser Permanente offers several health insurance options:

  • Employer plans
  • Family health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicaid/Medi-Cal
  • Medicare

How is Kaiser Permanente Rated?

Trusted ratings and reviews can help you understand how an insurer’s plans stack up against the competition. See how we rated Kaiser Permanente.

Financial strength rating: 5 Customer satisfaction rating: 4.5 Value rating: 4.8 Coverage rating: 4

Molina Healthcare Health Insurance: Best for underserved populations

Molina Healthcare Logo

Company Overview
Overall rating 3.8
Company founded 1980
Coverage area
  • California
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
A.M. Best rating A+
BBB rating F
NCQA accreditation Yes
NCQA rating N/A
Plans available
  • Family health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicaid and CHIP
  • Medicare
Provider network Large

Molina Healthcare began in 1980. The company specializes in the government-subsidized market, providing a range of Medicare and Medicaid policies for low-income households. Molina has an extensive network of preferred providers and clinics. Its website is easy to use, and you can compare plans available in your location.

Is Molina Healthcare a Good Health Insurance Provider?

What we like about Molina Healthcare health insurance plans: The drawbacks of Molina Healthcare health insurance plans:
  • Large preferred provider network
  • Affordable coverage
  • Low out-of-pocket costs
  • Coverage restricted to 13 states
  • Limited private healthcare plans
  • A relatively high number of unresolved complaints

What do Molina Healthcare Health Insurance Plans Cover?

Molina Healthcare offers several health insurance options:

  • Family health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicaid and CHIP
  • Medicare

How is Molina Healthcare Rated?

Trusted ratings and reviews can help you understand how an insurer’s plans stack up against the competition. See how we rated Molina Healthcare.

Financial strength rating: 5 Customer satisfaction rating: 3 Value rating: 3 Coverage rating: 4

UnitedHealthcare Health Insurance: Best for plan options

UnitedHealthcare Logo

Company Overview
Overall rating 4.6
Company founded 1977
Coverage area All except New York
A.M. Best rating A-
BBB rating A+
NCQA accreditation Yes
NCQA rating 4.5 to 2.5
Plans available
  • Dental
  • Employer plans
  • Family health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Marketplace plans
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • Self-employed plans
  • Short-term/TriTerm insurance
  • Student plans
  • Supplemental
  • Vision
Provider network
  • 1.3 million physicians and care professionals
  • 6,500 hospitals and care facilities nationwide

UnitedHealthcare, founded in 1977, is the largest U.S. health insurance company, with an estimated 14% market share. It offers a broad range of health insurance policies and has an extensive network of physicians, hospitals, and health care providers. While premiums may be a bit high, UnitedHealthcare offers extras such as virtual consultations, travel insurance, and online tools for individuals and group policies.

Is UnitedHealthcare a Good Health Insurance Provider?

What we like about UnitedHealthcare health insurance plans: The drawbacks of UnitedHealthcare health insurance plans:
  • Large provider network
  • Excellent website and apps
  • Wide variety of plans
  • Policies slightly more expensive than other insurers
  • Deductibles can be high

What do UnitedHealthcare Health Insurance Plans Cover?

UnitedHealthcare offers numerous health insurance options:

  • Dental
  • Employer plans
  • Family health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Marketplace plans
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • Self-employed plans
  • Short-term/TriTerm insurance
  • Student plans
  • Supplemental
  • Vision

How is UnitedHealthcare Rated?

Trusted ratings and reviews can help you understand how an insurer’s plans stack up against the competition. See how we rated UnitedHealthcare.

Financial strength rating: 4 Customer satisfaction rating: 4.8 Value rating: 4.8 Coverage rating: 4.8

WellCare Health Insurance: Best for Medicare

WellCare Logo

Company Overview
Overall rating 4
Company founded 1985
Coverage area All 50 states
A.M. Best rating B
BBB rating A+
NCQA accreditation Yes
NCQA rating 3
Plans available
  • Family health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
Provider network Large

WellCare was founded in 1985 to provide Medicaid coverage in Florida. Over time, the business has expanded to cover a full range of Medicare plans. The company offers health insurance across the country through several subsidiaries. In 2020, Centene bought out WellCare to create one of the largest providers of government-sponsored insurance.

Is WellCare a Good Health Insurance Provider?

What we like about WellCare health insurance plans: The drawbacks of WellCare health insurance plans:
  • Flexible out-of-network coverage
  • Expert advice
  • Low-cost plans
  • Few additional benefits

What do WellCare Health Insurance Plans Cover?

WellCare offers several health insurance options:

  • Family health insurance
  • Individual health insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare

How is WellCare Rated?

Trusted ratings and reviews can help you understand how an insurer’s plans stack up against the competition. See how we rated WellCare.

Financial strength rating: 3.5 Customer satisfaction rating: 4 Value rating: 4.2 Coverage rating: 4.5

How to Compare Health Insurance Companies

When comparing health insurance companies, it’s essential to look beyond premiums and learn about benefits, deductibles, and additional coverage. A place to start is preparing a list of questions to be answered, including family size and specific health issues.

  • Find plans available in your area: Start by enrolling on HealthCare.gov. Once you’ve answered income and family size questions, you get an overview of health plans available in your zip code. Alternatively, browse plans in your area from the See Plans and Prices tool.
  • Research the network: Most health insurers have a network of preferred providers that you must use or your copay increase. Check that those providers are convenient and verify if the network providers include special needs you or your family have.
  • Research prescription drug coverage: Check whether prescription drug coverage is included and if the amount is sufficient for your family’s needs. You may need to sign up for a prescription drug plan.
  • Compare monthly premiums: Compare monthly premium amounts for each policy, taking into account the plan level.
  • Compare deductibles: A deductible is an amount you must pay before the health policy pays out any benefits. Low deductibles mean you have lower annual out-of-pocket health costs.
  • Compare copays: Depending on the plan level, your copay, the amount you must pay for each service changes. For example, for Bronze plans, copays are 40%, whereas Gold plans are 20%.
  • Research dental coverage: Many policies, including Original Medicare, don’t include full dental cover as standard, so check what dental services are included and whether you need a separate dental plan.
  • Check insurer ratings: Always check insurer ratings. The ratings above are a good guide, and you can find localized policy-specific ratings on the NCQA Insurer Ratings.

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