Health insurance has become a major expense for many families as fewer employers have decided to offer insurance and those that do have offloaded more of the cost to the employee. What was once a benefit of most full time employment that required employees to pay less than $100 per pay period can now cost well upwards of $1000 every month for a family, not including copays and deductibles that add to a family’s medical expenses.
Finding the best insurance company outside an employer-sponsored plan has also gotten more difficult for many families as insurance companies have decided to offer fewer plans and the Affordable Care Act has put more restrictions on the types of plans offered to individuals and families outside of employer coverage.
Still, it’s important to have some kind of health insurance, since an unexpected accident or diagnosis could potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if you end up in the hospital for any length of time. Even if you rarely go to the doctor and are generally healthy, health insurance coverage from the best insurance company possible will protect your family from having to declare bankruptcy or radically change your lifestyle in the event of a major health problem like cancer, heart attack, or severe injury.
When shopping for health insurance, it’s important to consider several factors like whether your current doctors and hospitals accept the plan, what is covered in the plan, whether it requires preapprovals, and of course, the cost, deductible, and co-insurance. If it is possible, you should also check the contracted rates for plans, particularly if you plan to purchase a high deductible plan that will leave you responsible for the first several thousand dollars of care.
Here are the 10 best health insurance companies of 2019, based on criteria like affordability, what they cover, and the types of plans they offer.
1. Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
This insurance provider is actually made up of 37 different local companies that operate independently, many of which operate in a particular state. Blue Cross/Blue Shield has become the largest, and in many rural areas, the only insurance provider available. Typically, many different plans are offered–in many areas there are up to 20 plans with different levels of coverage offered both through companies and to individuals. Premiums are competitive with other companies but coverages vary, and at least in some areas, the contracted rates are very high, which means higher costs when using a high deductible plan.
2. Kaiser Foundation Group.
Although only currently available in 9 states, Kaiser insurance plans get consistently high customer satisfaction ratings and are also rated A+ by ratings companies like Standard & Poors and J.D. Power and Associates. One drawback is that those insured need to use Kaiser doctors, facilities and hospitals unless they are not available, such as when they are on vacation out of state.
Available in 22 states, Humana offers plans at lower cost than many other insurers but doesn’t skimp on benefits either. Dental, vision and home health care are some of the benefits offered by many Humana plans that you don’t see with a lot of other plans. Humana is mainly offered in the Midwest and South, and also offers affordable Medicare supplemental coverage as well.
Another relatively low-cost option, Aetna offers many different plans across the U.S. and internationally as well. Like Humana, Aetna offers add-ons like vision and dental coverage, and is available in areas of the country where Humana isn’t.
Cigna is another large insurer that works more with employer-provided coverage but also offers plans in the individual marketplace. Cigna’s plans tend to have higher premiums but offer more benefits and coverage than other plans. Cigna tried to merge with Anthem last year but the size of the resulting company brought anti-trust scrutiny and Cigna backed off the deal.
Anthem offers healthcare insurance in several states and was originally formed from two Blue Cross Blue Shield plans. While it has average reviews in many areas, it had the highest registered intention to renew on insure.com among all insurers, which showed that most people who had the insurance considered it good enough to keep.
7. United Healthcare.
While premiums for this provider were on the high side compared to other major insurers, the strength of United Healthcare is its online presence and the extensive online support are a draw for those who want to manage their healthcare online.
An insurer in three states–Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia–Highmark offers long and short-term insurance, such as someone might need when they change employers and their new coverage doesn’t kick in right away. Dental insurance is also offered by Highmark, which was originally affiliated with Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
9. Emblem Health.
Although Emblem only serves New York, it is still one of the largest insurers in the country. Premiums are high compared to other states, but that could be because of New York’s high cost of living, especially in the city. Deductibles are often lower than other plans, which also helps balance out overall cost. The plans are HMO-only, so preapprovals will be needed for care beyond the PCP.
10. Select Health.
This provider operates in Utah and Idaho, and offers regular plans as well as Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP plans, many of which have low to no copays and no deductibles. Rather than a national system, SelectHealth is homegrown and local to the areas it serves, which may be an advantage to some people that use it.
While choosing a health plan may not be easy, having a choice and competition among several companies helps to keep costs lower and leads to better service. Getting the best health insurance company to provide your coverage can lead to peace of mind and maybe even more money in your pocket.