UnitedHealthCare’s Medicare Advantage Plans Review
Comprehensive Part C Coverage That Can Work in Tandem With AARP Benefits
If you are an AARP member, you might have already heard of UnitedHealthCare’s Medicare Advantage plans. AARP works exclusively with UnitedHealthCare to offer Part C plans to millions of seniors across the country. However, you do not have to be an AARP member to apply for a UnitedHealthCare Medicare Advantage plan.
You can apply through AARP or directly through UnitedHealthCare. In either case, UnitedHealthCare has a wide range of affordable Part C plans that include Medicare Part A, B, and D coverage, plus extra benefits like discounts on hearing aids, free yearly eye exams, and $0 copays on preventative dental care. In this review, we will examine UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare Advantage plans and evaluate their pros and cons for older adults and other beneficiaries.
Pros About UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage
- $0 premiums: The majority of UnitedHealthCare’s Medicare Advantage plans do not charge premiums. When combined with relatively low deductibles and fewer copays, a UnitedHealthCare Medicare Advantage plan can greatly reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
- Reduced copays: Many common types of doctor’s visits do not require a copay under most UnitedHealthCare plans. For example, if you need to visit your primary care physician, get a lab test, or get a prescription for certain medications, you typically won’t have to pay to see the doctor. The number of mandatory copays varies by plan, but some plans also allow the $0 copay provision for certain types of dental care and routine hearing exams.
- OTC credits: Even with comprehensive Part D coverage, you will not get any discounts on over-the-counter medications through Original Medicare. UnitedHealthCare offers many Medicare Advantage plans with an OTC credits program that gives you credits to help pay for common OTC drugs like painkillers and cold medicine. Depending on your plan, you could get as much as $200 off the cost of OTC products per quarter.
- Free gym membership: UnitedHealthCare offers fitness benefits with many of its plans. The primary benefit is a free gym membership and access to on-demand workout videos. You can also participate in local health and wellness activities and earn reward points.
Cons About UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage
- Significant plan variations: Plan availability varies substantially from one location to another. You may only have access to certain HMO or PPO plans in your area. And while UnitedHealthCare has competitive pricing, your location may only have access to plans with higher deductibles, more copays, and fewer additional benefits.
- Limited hearing coverage: While the company’s vision coverage and dental benefits will likely cover the majority of your needs, UnitedHealthCare’s Medicare Advantage plans only cover routine hearing exams and a portion of hearing aid costs. For any other hearing-related care, you will probably have to pay out-of-pocket.
- Prior authorizations: Prior authorizations from you UnitedHealthcare are often required before you can get many routine treatments and tests. This can slow down the process and make it more complicated to get routine treatments. The need for prior authorizations varies (some plans do not require authorization at all).
Available UnitedHealthCare Medicare Advantage Plans
UnitedHealthCare offers standard Medicare Advantage plan types. Like most Part C plans, you can expect to get Part A, Part B, and Part D coverage. Most plans also include some coverage for hearing, vision, and dental care. Below, we will break down all of the plan types currently available through UnitedHealthCare:
As with a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan from any carrier, UnitedHealthCare requires you to get most of your non-emergency care within a network of doctors and hospitals. An HMO plan also requires you to choose a primary care physician. While most of the carrier’s HMOs include Part D and extra benefits, they do not provide health coverage for non-emergency treatments outside of your network. An HMO plan is best for seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries who travel infrequently and do not mind being limited to a preset network of healthcare providers.
HMO Point-of-Service (POS) is a variation of the traditional HMO plan that provides some out-of-network coverage. While you can use your plan to cover many non-emergency treatments outside of your current network, you will pay more than you would if you got the same treatments within your network.
Did You Know? UnitedHealthCare’s HMO-POS plans do not require you to choose a primary care physician.
Like UnitedHealthCare’s HMO plans, HMO-POS plans usually have low or no premiums, Part D coverage, and extras like dental, vision, and hearing coverage. An HMO-POS is best for older adults who want the security of knowing they still have some coverage outside of their healthcare network and benefit from many of the plan’s extras.
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans allow you to see any physician who accepts Medicare. Unlike HMO and HMO-POS plans, PPO does not require prior authorizations to receive treatments or see specialists. While many people assume that PPOs do not have a network, they do still have a network, albeit a very large one. Like HMOs, you will have to pay more for out-of-network treatment, but PPOs are best for seniors and other beneficiaries who like to travel and want to avoid the need for prior authorizations.
Private Fee-for-Service (PFFS) is a Medicare Advantage plan with no network. Like a PPO, you can see any physician who accepts Medicare. A PFFS plan offers more freedom to choose any doctor or clinic, but it often costs two times more than a comparable HMO or PPO plan. It is important to note that UnitedHealthCare PFFS plans do not always include prescription drug coverage.
Pro Tip: If you choose a Medicare Advantage plan without Part D benefits but still want prescription coverage, check out SeniorLiving.org’s recommended Medicare Part D plans.
For plans without prescription coverage, you would have to pay for a standalone Part D plan to receive coverage. PFFS plans are usually best for seniors who have low prescription drug costs and do not want to worry about dealing with a network of healthcare providers.
A Special Needs Plan (SNP) is a unique type of Medicare Advantage plan available to those who are eligible based on certain healthcare requirements or financial conditions. For example, if you have a disability or your income is below a certain threshold, you may qualify for one of UnitedHealthCare’s SNP plans. While these plans do have in-network and out-of-network distinctions, they provide additional coverage for disability-related treatments that most other plans do not cover.
Extra Perks and Benefits
We have already covered many of the “extras” that UnitedHealthCare offers on top of the benefits of Original Medicare. These include Part D coverage, vision, dental, hearing, and OTC credits. Many UnitedHealthCare Medicare Advantage plans also offer additional perks, including:
- 24/7 nurse helpline
- Annual at-home wellness visit
- Insulin copays for $35 or less
Just remember that all of the aforementioned benefits do not come with every UnitedHealthCare Part C plan. Access to some or all of these benefits can depend on your location. Be sure to consult with UnitedHealthCare to see which perks apply to plans available in your area before making a decision.
How Much Do UnitedHealthCare Medicare Advantage Plans Cost?
UnitedHealthCare Part C plan costs will vary based on many factors, from your location to the type of free copays your plan offers. Your costs can also fluctuate over time based on your medical needs. We have compiled some of the most important considerations when calculating the cost of your coverage, as well as some statistics to help you gauge costs:
- Premium: Most UnitedHealthCare Part C plans have $0 or low premiums. If your plan requires a premium, you will pay the amount that UnitedHealthCare charges per month, plus your Part B premium (assuming your Part A premium is waived). As of 2023, the minimum Part B premium is $164.90 per month.
- Deductible: Some UnitedHealthCare plans have $0 deductibles, though most do not. You may need to pay (on average) more than $1,600 per year for your Part A deductible and $226 for your Part B deductible (as of 2023).1 Once you have met your deductibles, UnitedHealthCare splits the cost of care 80/20 (you pay 20 percent of the cost).
- Copay: UnitedHealthCare offers $0 copays on many different types of routine medical visits. For visits that do not qualify for the $0 copay provision, you can expect to pay around $30 per visit.
- Part D: Most plans come with Part D coverage included, which can save you a lot on the cost of prescription drugs. However, if your plan does not come with Part D, you will need to pay for a standalone plan, which costs roughly $43 per month (as of 2023).
- Out-of-network costs: Assuming your plan has a network, you will need to consider the additional costs of getting treatments outside of your network.
- AARP premium: If you choose to get your UnitedHealthCare Part C plan through AARP (rather than directly from UnitedHealthcare) you will need to pay for an AARP membership. This will only cost about $16 per year, but it will still add to the overall cost of your insurance.
Did You Know? A UnitedHealthCare Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan can greatly reduce the cost of your out-of-pocket expenses. Unfortunately, you cannot combine Medigap with a Medicare Advantage plan; Medigap can only be used in tandem with Original Medicare.
Where Are UnitedHealthCare Medicare Advantage Plans Available?
UnitedHealthCare has Part C plans available in 48 states, as well as the District of Columbia. Currently, these Medicare Advantage plans are not available in Alaska or Louisiana. UnitedHealthCare boasts more than 8.2 million Part C enrollees2, making it one of the largest Medicare Advantage carriers in the country. This means it is very easy for the vast majority of seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries to access a UnitedHealthCare Part C plan.
Reviews and Ratings
It is always a good idea to research an insurance carrier before enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan. Fortunately, there are many legitimate review agencies that specialize in health insurance and Medicare Advantage carriers. These agencies rank companies based on various factors, from the breadth of their plan offerings to the overall cost of their services. As you can see below, UnitedHealthCare has scored well across the board:
- 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
UnitedHealthCare’s customer support center is available by phone seven days a week, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. If you don’t want to wait on hold to speak to an agent, you can send a message online or schedule an in-person meeting. Regardless of the route you choose, you can find all of the relevant customer service contact information right here.
Final Thoughts on UnitedHealthCare Medicare Advantage Plans
UnitedHealthCare’s Medicare Advantage plans are difficult to beat. With plenty of $0 premium plans, $0 copay options, and relatively low deductibles, UnitedHealthCare can help you save on the costs of treatment. Plus, most plans come with Part D, as well as some vision, dental, and hearing coverage. That said, prices and plan availability vary widely by location, so you will need to contact a UnitedHealthCare agent or view your options online to see exactly what is available to you. UnitedHealthCare offers great Medicare Advantage plans that can also be accessed via an AARP membership, which offers its own unique benefits to older Americans.
Medicare.gov. (2022). Medicare costs at a glance.
UnitedHealthCare Newsroom. (2022). UnitedHealthcare’s 2023 Medicare Plans Add New Benefits, Simplicity for Consumers.