AARP Medicare Advantage Plans Review
AARP’s Part C Coverage Goes Far Beyond Original Medicare
Most seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries approaching retirement know that AARP is a great resource for people over the age of 50. In addition to regular publications and educational resources, AARP is linked with many partners to help older adults find everything from financial advisors to car insurance. AARP even provides its own Medicare Advantage plans through UnitedHealthcare. In this review, we will examine the Medicare Part C plans available to AARP members and evaluate their pros and cons.
Pro Tip: While AARP is one of our top picks for Medicare Advantage carriers, there are a few companies that stand out above the rest. Want to find out who? Compare AARP side-by-side with SeniorLiving.org’s picks for the recommendations for Medicare Advantage carriers.
Pros About What We Like
- No premiums: Most AARP Medicare Advantage plans come with $0 premiums. The availability of these plans varies based on your location and your needs. For example, if you need durable medical equipment, you may have to pay a premium for your coverage.
- Fewer copays: With AARP, you can often get $0 copays for most primary care visits, virtual visits, and lab tests. Many of AARP’s Part C plans also offer $0 copays for Tier 1 and Tier 2 prescription drugs and preventive dental care.
- Fitness benefits: AARP’s Medicare Advantage plans make it easier and more affordable to exercise by providing free gym memberships, thousands of virtual workout videos, and rewards for meeting fitness goals.
- 24/7 nurse access: If you have questions, AARP Part C plans offer 24/7 access to trained nurses; you can call a nurse within your network at any time to ask questions about symptoms, appointments, or billing information.
Cons About What We Don't Like
- Limitations on $0 copays: While $0 copays sound like a dream come true, AARP’s Medicare Advantage plans vary widely in how they handle your out-of-pocket costs. For example, only specific dental services and prescription drug categories qualify for $0 copays, while some plans do not offer $0 copays at all.
- Unpredictable pricing structure: When calculating premiums, copays, deductibles, and other fees, AARP usually outperforms other carriers. However, costs can change drastically from one location or plan to the next. While AARP generally offers great savings with PPO and HMO-POS plans, its HMO and PFFS plans are just as expensive as other costly plans.
- Prior authorization requirements: Depending on your plan, you may have to get prior authorization from your insurance carrier before you can get X-rays, hearing exams, diagnostic tests, and other routine treatments.
Available AARP Medicare Advantage Plans
AARP offers many of the same plan types as most other Medicare Advantage carriers. These plans include the essential coverage you would expect with Medicare Part C, including Part A, Part B, and Part D. Plus, most AARP plans come with vision, dental, and hearing coverage — benefits you cannot get with Original Medicare. Let’s take a closer look at AARP’s Medicare Advantage plan types.
An AARP health maintenance organization (HMO) plan requires you to get the majority of your non-emergency care within a preset network of healthcare providers. Most AARP HMOs include Part D prescription drug coverage and many of the extra benefits that come with most AARP Medicare Advantage plans. You will need to choose a primary care physician and receive treatment within your network, as AARP’s traditional HMO does not cover most treatments received outside of your network. HMOs are best for seniors who do not travel much and spend most of their time near in-network providers.
An AARP HMO with point-of-service (POS) coverage allows you to get some types of treatments outside of your network. While your coverage does extend further, you will still have to pay more when you go out of network. Like its standard HMO plans, AARP’s HMO-POS plans often come with a low or $0 premium, prescription drug coverage, and extra benefits. This type of plan gives older adults more freedom to travel without losing their Medicare coverage. However, both types of HMO plans will generally require prior authorization for treatments and approval from your primary care physician to see specialists.
When compared to an HMO plan, a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan offers much more freedom, as you can see any physician who accepts Medicare. You won’t be required to get referrals, approvals, or prerequisite hospital visits for most services. However, PPOs still operate within the UnitedHealthcare Medicare National Network, and you’ll pay more for out-of-network visits. Like HMO plans, you can find many AARP PPO plans with a low or $0 premium.
AARP’s private fee-for-service (PFFS) plan does not have a network. Instead, you can see anyone who accepts Medicare to get treatment. However, some of AARP’s PFFS plans do not automatically come with Part D coverage; you may have to pay to get a stand-alone Part D plan if you want prescription drug coverage. This plan is best for seniors who want autonomy to get treatment from the doctor or facility of their choice without worrying about networks.
An AARP special needs plan (SNP) has a provider network and is available to those who qualify based on unique healthcare or financial circumstances. This type of plan is not available to everyone. If you are eligible, you can rest easy knowing that AARP SNP plans come with Part D prescription drug coverage.
Extra Perks and Benefits
With AARP Medicare Advantage plans through UnitedHealthcare, you’ll have access to perks like the following:
- Free gym memberships and thousands of free workout videos
- Local health and wellness classes and events
- Health activities reward system
- 24/7 access to a nurse (informational purposes only)
- Annual at-home wellness visit
- Vision care, including free yearly eye exams, designer frames, and prescription lenses
- Free preventive dental care
- Hearing care, including free routine hearing exams and discounts on hearing aids
- Credits for OTC products (up to $200 per quarter)
Did You Know? AARP also offers Medicare Supplement plans and is among SeniorLiving.org’s recommended Medigap plans!
It is important to remember that many of the benefits listed above are not available with every AARP plan. You will need to check your individual plan to ensure you can access the right benefits for you.
How Much Do AARP Medicare Advantage Plans Cost?
The exact cost of your AARP Medicare Part C plan will vary based on a variety of considerations, including your location, your plan type, and the kinds of medications and treatments you require. However, it is always good to know what to anticipate when it comes to your healthcare costs. Here are some specific factors and costs to expect with AARP Plan C coverage:
- Premium: Your monthly premium is the amount you pay every month to maintain your coverage. AARP is known for having many low- and even zero-dollar-premium plans. Even if your plan does include a premium, most people can have the Part A premium waived, while the average Part B premium is $164.90 per month (as of 2023).
- Deductible: The annual deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket every year before your insurance kicks in. As of 2023, the Part A deductible is $1,556, and the Part B deductible is $233, though these amounts typically increase yearly. 1
- Copay: A copay is the amount you pay to see a doctor or visit a clinic. AARP is one of the most affordable carriers when it comes to low or no copays, with most of their plans boasting $0 copays for many routine visits. If your plan does have copays, they will typically cost around $30 per doctor’s visit.
- Out-of-pocket limits: Medicare Advantage sets limits on the total amount you have to pay out of pocket for deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. Once you reach this amount, Medicare is required to cover all of these costs for the remainder of the year. These limits vary for each person and plan.
- Extra benefits: Most of AARP’s plans come with free extra benefits. If you get a plan that does not have a certain benefit and you want it, you will need to pay more to add it as a “rider.”
- Part D: Like extra benefits, Part D may or may not be part of your AARP Medicare Advantage plan. If it is not included, you will have to pay for a stand-alone Part D plan to get prescription drug coverage.
- Out-of-network costs: If your plan has a network-based system, you will need to factor in the costs of getting out-of-network treatments. For example, getting treated outside of your network on an HMO plan can be extremely costly.
- AARP premium: Though AARP membership is not very expensive, it is required to qualify for AARP’s Medicare Advantage plans. This means that you can add about $16 per year to the cost of your insurance.
Did You Know? AARP has more than 38 million members throughout the United States, making it the largest organization and interest group for older Americans.
AARP generally offers lower costs than many other carriers, especially when it comes to out-of-pocket costs like copayments. So, if you want an affordable Medicare Advantage plan, AARP is a solid option.
Where Are AARP Medicare Advantage Plans Available?
AARP’s plans from UnitedHealthcare are available in 48 states plus the District of Columbia. Alaska and Louisiana are the only states where AARP Medicare Advantage is unavailable. That said, UnitedHealthcare has one of the largest national networks for Medicare Advantage (over 1 million network providers), making it easier for seniors in most parts of the country to access affordable Medicare Advantage plans.
Reviews and Ratings
When shopping for a Medicare Advantage plan, we recommend checking out what reputable third-party sources have to say about the carrier. Below, you will find ratings of AARP from some of the most-trusted business and insurance review agencies in the country. These ratings use a wide range of criteria, from the value and diversity of offerings to the quality of the carrier’s business practices and customer service:
- AM Best: A++
- Better Business Bureau (BBB): A+
- National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA): 4 out of 5 stars
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS): 4 out of 5 stars
As previously mentioned, AARP’s Medicare Advantage plans are underwritten by UnitedHealthcare. That means you will have to contact UnitedHealthcare’s customer support center for assistance. You can call them toll-free, seven days a week, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Alternatively, you can message an agent online or set up a virtual or in-person meeting. You can access all of the information for contacting UnitedHealthcare customer service right here.
Did You Know? There are certain times of the year when you can enroll in Medicare Advantage plans. Visit our guide to Medicare enrollment to learn more.
Final Thoughts on AARP Medicare Advantage Plans
AARP is one of the more affordable Medicare Advantage carriers on the market. In addition to low copays and deductibles, most of AARP’s plans come with important benefits like prescription drug, vision, dental, and hearing coverage. Prices will vary widely based on your plan type and healthcare needs. You will also need to pay to become an AARP member before you can qualify for a Part C plan. Nonetheless, AARP’s Medicare Advantage (underwritten by UnitedHealthcare) plans often outpace those of many competitors in terms of pricing, benefits, and overall value.
Medicare.gov. (2022). Medicare costs at a glance.