There are several criteria to keep in mind when choosing from the best health insurance companies including financial strength, customer service ratings, claims service, plan prices, policy offerings, coverage benefits, and provider choices. There is no one “best” health insurance company, but the best one for you will depend on the type of private health insurance you need, your budget, and what is available in your area.
The region you live in will determine which health insurers you have access to, and coverage options vary from state to state. It can be a daunting process trying to find a health insurer that matches all your needs, but we’ve done the research to come up with a list of insurers that have a good reputation and perform well in the areas of policy offerings and plan choices. These private health insurance companies are some of the best options for health care coverage for 2021.
We teamed up with QuinStreet to bring you the health insurance offers in the following table. Below, you'll find our editors' picks for the best health insurance companies.
The 7 Best Health Insurance Companies of 2021
- Best for Health Savings Account (HSA) Options: Kaiser Permanente
- Best Large Provider Network: Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Best for Online Care: UnitedHealthcare
- Best for Employer-Based Plans: Aetna
- Best for Telehealth Care: Cigna
- Best for Healthy Living Programs: HCSC
- Best for Preventive Care: Molina Healthcare
Kaiser Permanente: Best for Health Savings Plan (HSA) Options
Kaiser Permanente is a trusted name in health insurance. It offers medical care through its managed care organization and network of Kaiser Foundation hospitals and medical centers. It has won numerous customer service awards from J.D. Power & Associates and has excellent financial strength ratings. Kaiser Permanente offers private health insurance to residents of California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington state, as well as those living in Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C. Its network includes more than 23,000 participating physicians.
If you live in one of Kaiser Permanente’s coverage areas, you have access to several plan options including bronze, silver, gold, and platinum plans. All plan types except for gold and platinum offer the option to add a health savings account (HSA).
The health savings account (HSA) options through Kaiser Permanente are available for high-deductible plans. The contributions are tax-free and can be used to help pay for qualifying expenses including prescriptions, primary/specialty care visits, doctor/hospital visits, X-rays, lab tests, ambulance/emergency care services, physical/occupational therapy and vision/dental care.
The HSA balance is transferable even if you change jobs, and the account comes with a debit card. You can invest any amount you’ve saved over $2,000 into one of the offered mutual fund selections.
Why we picked it: Kaiser Permanente was the top performer in California, Colorado, Maryland, and the Northwest and South Atlantic regions according to the 2020 J.D. Power & Associates Commercial Member Health Plan Study. Kaiser Permanente is ranked the number one overall health insurer on insure.com. 49% of people they surveyed would definitely recommend it and an additional 38% said they would probably recommend it. Also, 90% of customers plan to renew their policies.
Strong customer service
Health savings account options
Variety of health plans available
Limited coverage areas
Blue Cross Blue Shield: Best Large Provider Network
The Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Association offers private health insurance coverage not only in the United States but in over 170 countries. Over 100 million Americans have their health insurance through a BCBS organization. There are 36 BCBS independent health insurance companies in the U.S. and most have an AM Best financial strength rating of “A” (excellent).
BCBS members have access to plans through health maintenance organizations (HMOs), exclusive provider organizations (EPOs), and preferred provider organizations (PPOs).
The HMO plans offer the most comprehensive plans at the greatest savings but limit doctor choices to those inside the HMO. The EPO plan uses select provider networks and incorporates policies that promote and manage member health care. The PPO plans, on the other hand, offer more flexibility with a great number of participating doctors.
In fact, BCBS PPO providers are so numerous that you are likely to be close to one no matter what part of the country you live in. BCBS plans also give you access to HSAs and flexible spending accounts (FSAs). With a FSA plan, you can save money tax-free for health insurance deductibles and other health-related expenses. The HSA plan is similar but must be used only for qualifying medical expenses. You may choose to apply the funds in these plans to insurance deductibles and enjoy the benefits of lower insurance premiums with a high-deductible plan.
Why we picked it: BCBS health care organizations offer nationwide coverage and six of its companies were included in the top 15 best health insurers by Insure.com. Of those six, the ones that have AM Best ratings for financial strength received an A or better. A variety of plans are available to choose from.
No matter where you live, there is a health care facility provider who accepts BCBS in your state.
There are many policy options and there is a plan available no matter how much coverage you may want.
Customers have rated various BCBS companies less than 3.5 stars on Consumer Affairs. The complaints include difficulty in getting medical procedures approved, coverage denials, and limited PPO choices.
UnitedHealthCare: Best for Online Care
UnitedHealthcare (UHC) has an “A” (excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best and is a part of UnitedHealth Group, which is the largest health insurer in the U.S. It offers individual insurance that meets the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements for essential care. A real standout feature for UHC members is the access to online care, including the ability to order prescriptions online, speak with a nurse via a hotline, and participate in online wellness programs. Members can also go online 24/7 to find doctors and set up appointments, file claims, and even speak with a doctor through a mobile device. It even has a mobile app so you can use these resources on the go.
UHC is a great choice for people who want the option to manage their health care electronically. HMO and PPO plans are available with access to HSAs and FSAs. Member discounts are available for hearing aids, vision services (including Lasik), and smoking cessation programs. UHC has a very large preferred provider network of over 1.3 million physicians and other health care professionals. UHC also offers Medicare Advantage HMO and PPO plans.
Why we picked it: UnitedHealthcare has excellent financial strength ratings and has a network of PPOs across the nation. Its online health care services are excellent.
Large PPO network
Online health care services
Average or less-than-average overall customer satisfaction ratings in 2020 J.D. Power Commercial Member Health Plan Study
Aetna: Best for Employer-Based Plans
Aetna has an excellent reputation and is one of the largest health insurers in the U.S. It has an AM Best “A” (excellent) financial strength rating. Aetna was acquired by CVS Health in 2018, but still provides employer health plans to residents of all 50 U.S. states. Aetna offers affordable private health insurance options that include preventive care, hospitalization, office visits, immunizations, and other types of essential health care services. Members also have access to HSA plans (available for high-deductible plans).
There is a large provider network, so members will be able to find an Aetna-approved provider no matter the part of the country they reside in. Network plan options allow members to see an in-network doctor or any licensed doctor, although seeing a network doctor will provide the greatest savings. Aetna offers several types of provider plans including HMO, POS, PPO, EPO, and HDHP with HSA. There are numerous wellness programs available to Aetna members, too, including gym memberships, weight-loss programs, health coaching, and more.
Why we picked it: Aetna received five stars in overall customer satisfaction for the Delaware, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. areas in the 2019 J.D. Power & Associates Commercial Member Health Plan Study. It has excellent financial strength ratings and coverage is available in all 50 states.
Website and apps only received a 3.5-star rating from Insure.com
Only 75% of customers would recommend to a friend
Cigna: Best for Telehealth Care
Cigna is a global health insurance provider and offers private health insurance in 10 U.S. states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. It has an “A” (excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best. Referrals for out-of-network care may or may not be required depending on your plan. The greatest savings are realized by using an in-network provider.
Plan options, deductibles, and co-pay options vary by state. High-deductible plans are available along with HSA plan options. Policyholders can search plan network doctors, estimate costs, check claims status, and get insurance ID cards all online. There are several attractive member benefits including access to a home delivery pharmacy, health information helpline, rewards programs, flu shot information, and the Cigna telehealth connection program, which allows you access to board-certified telehealth providers including Amwell and MDLIVE.
Why we picked it: Cigna has excellent financial strength ratings and out-of-network approvals are not required. It has excellent telehealth services available to members.
Out-of-network care available without a referral
Limited coverage area
HCSC: Best for HMO Plans
Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) is the largest customer-owned health insurer in the U.S. It was founded in 1936 and services more than 16 million members in its operating states of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. HCSC offers a wide variety of Health insurance programs through its affiliates and subsidiary companies. Plans and coverage options vary by state.
Healthy living programs are available including an online health assessment tool, smoking cessation support, weight-loss programs, maternity programs, fitness programs, and a 24/7 nurse hotline. Its secure member website offers 24/7 access to health plan information and online tools. Mobile alerts are available to members through text or by email including claims information notification, exercise and fitness tips, prescription drug reminder, diabetes diet tips, and heart healthy diet management and care tips.
Why we picked it: HCSC has an “A” (excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best, plus top-notch health programs for members with 24/7 access online.
Excellent healthy living programs
Limited coverage territory
Molina Healthcare: Best for Wellness Care
Molina Healthcare offers private health insurance to residents in California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. It insures more than 3.6 million members across the United States. Coverage options, plan choices, and benefits vary by state. Many of its health plans come with low co-pays and cover essential medical care such as prenatal, emergency services, hospital care, vaccinations, lab tests/x-rays, prescription drugs, doctor’s visits, and vision insurance.
Molina has some excellent perks, wellness care, and preventive health care services for its health insurance members including adult immunizations, adult preventive services, child and adolescent immunizations, pediatric preventive health care, prenatal and postnatal care.
Why we picked it: Moody’s Investors Service recently upgraded its financial strength ratings, and the wellness and preventive care services are excellent.
Excellent wellness program
Excellent preventative care
Limited coverage territory
When Is Open Enrollment for Health Insurance for 2021?
The open enrollment period for health insurance depends on whether you're buying a Medicare plan, a policy from an employer, or an option from the HealthCare Marketplace.
The enrollment period for the HealthCare Marketplace runs from November 1 to December 15. The enrollment period for those newly eligible for Medicare is a seven-month window after turning 65. After that, the annual enrollment period is from October 15 to December 7.
Those who buy insurance from an employer should ask their HR department about the enrollment period because private companies can set their own deadlines.
Are Health Insurance Premiums Tax-Deductible?
Health insurance premiums may only be deducted if total medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) in a year.
Taxpayers must also itemize their deductions if they want to deduct their health-related expenses. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 increased the standard deduction significantly, so itemizing makes less sense for most taxpayers.
Self-employed individuals who do not qualify for employer-sponsored health insurance may deduct premiums on their taxes without itemizing.
What Does Health Insurance Cover?
Health insurance typically covers the costs of medical, prescription, and surgical services. It pays for your care if you get sick or injured, as well as preventative care such as vaccines and wellness checkups with your doctor. It pays for most prescription drugs and medical devices.
Health insurance doesn’t cover elective surgical procedures or beauty treatments, however, and it’s not the same as accident insurance. Health insurance will most likely cover your medical expenses if you’re involved in an accident, but accident insurance is a supplemental policy that gives you a lump sum to help pay for your out-of-pocket accident-related costs.
Does Health Insurance Cover Therapy?
Health insurance may cover therapy and counseling visits, but it depends on the specific policy. Check your insurance summary to see if mental health counseling is covered.
If it is covered, make sure the provider accepts your specific plan. Many therapists do not accept health insurance. If that’s the case, you can submit receipts to your health insurance provider for reimbursement. They may provide some benefits for out-of-network therapists, but this also varies by policy.
Does Health Insurance Cover Dental?
Medical insurance plans do not cover dental expenses, except for children. Dental insurance for adults has to be purchased separately. If you receive health insurance through your employer, they may also provide dental insurance.
How Do I Find Out What My Health Insurance Covers?
Insurance companies are required to provide a document that lists all the covered services. Most people receive a copy of this when they first enroll. If you can’t find yours, log on to your insurance profile online or call a customer service representative to ask for the summary.
How Much Does Health Insurance Cost?
Health insurance plans can vary greatly in cost based on factors such as your health, your geographic region, the amount of your deductible, and co-pay requirements. It’s a good idea to compare the total costs and benefits of the plan and not just look at the premium.
Policies with lower deductibles generally allow you to pay less upfront, but you’ll pay a higher monthly premium in exchange for that. You’re effectively paying more on a monthly basis rather than all at once through a deductible when you need care. You might also be responsible for a co-pay, a fixed percentage of the balance remaining after you’ve paid your deductible. You and the insurance company are sharing the costs.
Health insurance you might receive through your employer is typically cheaper than purchasing a policy on your own.
Is Health Insurance Worth It?
It’s very rare to find a scenario where health insurance isn’t worth the cost. You never know when you’ll become sick or get injured, and it’s significantly cheaper to pay for health insurance than to incur large medical bills. Doctor’s visits, hospital stays, and ambulance rides can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s better to pay for health insurance than risk getting stuck with those bills.
How We Chose the Best Health Insurance Companies
We reviewed several health insurance companies and chose these based on their customer satisfaction ratings, the type of coverage they offer, financial strength ratings, and coverage areas. We also looked at additional features the health insurance companies offered their members, including online services and wellness programs.
J.D. Power. "Health Plans Have a Customer Engagement Problem, J.D. Power Finds." Accessed December 3, 2020.
Insure.com. "Kaiser Permanente Health Insurance Ratings." Accessed December 3, 2020.
AM Best. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Anthem, Inc. and Its Subsidiaries." Accessed December 9, 2020.
AM Best. "A.M. Best Affirms Ratings of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Inc. d.b.a. Florida Blue and its Affiliates." Accessed December 3, 2020.
AM Best. "AM Best Revises Outlooks to Positive for UnitedHealth Group Incorporated and Its UnitedHealthcare Subsidiaries." Accessed December 9, 2020.
AM Best. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of CVS Health Corporation’s Aetna Subsidiaries." Accessed December 9, 2020.
J.D. Power. "Health Plan Customer Satisfaction Challenged by New Era of Empowered Healthcare Consumers, J.D. Power Finds." Accessed December 3, 2020.
AM Best. "AM Best Assigns Credit Ratings to CIGNA Global Insurance Company Limited." Accessed December 9, 2020.
AM Best. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Health Care Service Corporation and Its Subsidiaries." Accessed December 9, 2020.