Money / Your Medicare Advisor

AARP Branded Medicare Advantage Plans Do Not Rank Among the Best Scorers


The Affordable Care Act (“ACA” aka “Obamacare”) will bring new opportunities and challenges to health care consumers. With more people receiving coverage on the individual market, they will need to find ways to select health plans that meet their needs. Consumerism in the Medicare market predates Obamacare with choices of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug plans. In light of the movement toward individual choice, HealthPocket decided to look at the effect of brand awareness on decision making and focused on one well known and widely used branded Medicare Advantage program. We found that plans bearing the AARP brand in the Medicare Advantage market on average fall short of the industry in two measures of plan quality.

This report looked at 578 Medicare Advantage contracts with a particular focus on the government’s star rating and the overall opinion of the plan based on a survey of enrollees in that plan. The goal of this research is to compare how one of the strongest brands in the industry, AARP and its endorsed carrier, UnitedHealth, perform in these high level quality metrics compared with the universe of plans.

The Medicare Advantage program has been successful in many ways, including enrollment. There are now 14.4 million people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, and that figure has grown by almost 10 percent since 2012.1 Medicare Advantage market share represents over 28 percent of the Medicare eligible population.2 By contrast, the insurance industry reports that 10.2 million people had Medigap plans, which supplement benefits to traditional Medicare, at the end of 2012. This marketplace doesn’t show the same growth pattern seen in the Advantage market.3

Consumers have complex choices to make when deciding between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Once they conclude that an Advantage plan can best meet their needs, they then have to navigate an array of options available to them. There is much research regarding the paradox of choice and consumer decision making generally.4 One specific study of the Medicare Advantage market showed the market within a particular region generally grows when choice is limited to fewer than 15 plans, but could in fact shrink if choices become too numerous.5 The article expressed particular concern that beneficiaries with cognitive challenges could miss better plan opportunities because of having too much choice.

The Medicare plan quality star rating system is a key factor in helping enrollees differentiate plans. The rating provides a one to five (actual results start at 2 stars) scoring system for Medicare Advantage Plans.6 The overall rating reflects treatment, preventive care, and customer satisfaction collected on the Medicare Advantage plan. Consumers who are interested in poring through more detail can find sub-ratings on the Medicare plan finder website7 and on HealthPocket’s Plan Details page for each Medicare Advantage plan.8

Researchers are finding evidence that the star ratings are beginning to move market share toward the higher rated plans.9 However, HealthPocket also wanted to see the effect a brand might have on Medicare Advantage market share. Because choices can be so numerous in the Medicare Advantage market, a consumer might fall back on a basic comfort level that a known and trusted brand can provide a good choice. Research also indicates that some older people select from among fewer choices based on brand awareness.10


UnitedHealth is the leading market share carrier for Medicare Advantage, with a reported market share of nearly 21 percent in February 2013.11 Humana has the second largest market share at nearly 17 percent. AARP branded plans are described on the AARP Member Advantages website12 as being structured the following way: “The AARP® MedicareComplete® plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company and its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract. UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company pays royalty fees to AARP for use of its intellectual property.”

Market share reports do not tend to break out AARP’s share from the rest of UnitedHealth’s, but a Congressional report in March 2011 stated that AARP branded plans then had an 11 percent market share and non-AARP branded UnitedHealth plans had an additional 7 percent market share.13

Star Ratings

The chart below compares the average star ratings for AARP Medicare Advantage plan contracts with the remaining universe of Medicare plan contracts: The data shows a significant oversupply of AARP contracts in the 3 and 3.5 range, while few AARP contracts reach 4 and none reach the excellent range of 4.5 and 5. In fact, only 8.5% of AARP plan contracts exceed 3.5 stars. Averaging all contracts with ratings excluding AARP, the average score equaled 3.47, while the average for the AARP contracts equaled 3.27.

The highest scoring plans across their average contract scores were nonprofit health plans, including Kaiser (7.9 percent market share, but still an average contract score of 4.93), Gundersen Lutheran Health System, Baystate Health and HealthPartners Inc.) However, for profit plans also had higher average contract scores than AARP, such as Humana (3.4) and Aetna (3.65.)

Members’ Overall Rating of Plan Results

HealthPocket also looked at how the branded AARP Medicare Advantage plans fared compared with the industry in how the plans were rated by a survey of their members. The chart below shows how the AARP plans compared with the remainder of the plans in the industry with respect to members who rated the plan highly.

The industry average for all plans excluding AARP for this response was 86 percent of members rated the plan highly, while AARP’s plan contract average was 83 percent. Perhaps more importantly, the AARP plans top out at 86 percent, while the rest of the industry has 62 plan contracts at 90 percent or higher and tops out at 95 percent.

Implications for Consumers

A lot of factors drive consumers’ decisions regarding their health plan purchase. They will be heavily motivated by cost, including premiums, copays, deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket expenses. Many will want to make sure that key physicians participate in their plan and that specific health care facilities are in a plan’s network. Therefore, quality should play one important role in a mix that contains other factors. At least with respect to Medicare Advantage quality scores and consumer satisfaction data, the AARP branded plans are not top performers. Yet they are successful in achieving strong market participation. Fortunately for consumers CMS, the Medicare plans’ regulator, has done an excellent job of releasing data to the public and on its own plan finder website. This allows easier comparison of plans and brings plan quality into the mix for consumer decision making. Being able to see actual ratings and customer satisfaction might provide enrollees sufficient peace of mind to look beyond the brand in determining health plan selection.


Data on attrition, complaints and star ratings were taken from 2013 CMS Medicare Part C Performance Data tabulations.14 The data was based on contract numbers, which can represent multiple plans. UnitedHealth contract numbers were compared against Medicare Advantage plan landscape data to determine which UnitedHealth plans carried the AARP brand. Medicare Advantage contract plans that were either too new or had insufficient data to a have star rating or overall plan rating were eliminated from this review. The remaining plans were not adjusted for market share.15 This study did not consider premium costs or other plan details. All analysis assumes the accuracy of the underlying government data. While every effort was made towards a representative collection of plans, HealthPocket makes no representation that every plan within the Medicare Advantage market was included in this study. Percentages are rounded according to standard industry practices.


Steve Zaleznick, Executive Director for Consumer Strategy and Development at, completed this survey analysis.

Join the Discussion   Add Your Comment

  1. Theodore Wynn says:

    I need a Dental plan that cover root canal work that have been abused and now need work done.

  2. George Bailey says:

    You refer multiple times to the chart below on Advantage Plans. So where’s the charts???????

  3. joe vazquez says:

    please is united ppo is better than humana ppo in Tampa Fla

  4. Jennifer says:

    This is so frustrating. Insurance companies discriminate against those under 65, and on Medicare due to disability. Between the Medicare cost ($104), Part D ($50), and BCBS supplement ($605), I cannot afford this.

    Thinking of enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Plan, but have been told by BCBS that if I leave them, no insurance company has to ever pick me back up, if I want to have a Medicare Supplement in the future?

    • Cat Tilley says:

      Jennifer, if you go with a Medicare Advantage plan, you can save yourself a lot of cash. Many plans are ‘zero’ premium, meaning that your Medicare deduction (the $104 you mentioned) will pay for the plan & you’ll have great health & drug coverage. ‘Supplements’ are ripoffs, and since you’re paying Part D, you’ve met the need not to pay a penalty for drug coverage.

      Honestly, I don’t know who your insurance broker is, but that person is looking out after THEIR interest, not yours. $655 extra cash is a lot of money over the course of a year. You need to do what’s right for you, not an insurance company, and most every area has a ‘zero premium’ policy that includes drug coverage. Even if you had to pay a little extra for one to meet your needs, you’re still saving. Get yourself a broker that specializes in Medicare Advantage plans.

      I’m disabled myself & have had Medicare Advantage since I was Medicare eligible in 2008. Only one year I paid extra for a plan (Advantra Freedom in 2012) & that was only $23/monthly. Basically it works just like am employer plan (sometimes better), the only thing that affects some, but not all members, is there’s a coverage gap, otherwise known as the ‘donut hole’, that one falls into. Yet one can climb out of that for half per year of what you’re paying total.

      That information may be true about BCBS in regards to leaving them, yet Medicare Advantage has been here for 10+ years & will likely be here to stay. And one thing for sure……your premiums mentioned will surely increase every year, while your Medicare ones moves a little at a time (none if no raise). Unfortunately, those who sign up for Medicare beginning January 1 will pay half again what we do, over $150/month, and some higher than that (those with a spouse who is a high earner).

      Good Luck & remember, do what’s right for YOU!


  5. I’m impressed, I should say. Really rarely will i encounter a weblog that’s both educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail within the head. Your notion is outstanding; the problem is something not enough individuals are speaking intelligently about. I will likely be quite happy that I came across this inside my search for some thing concerning this.

  6. SallyMJ says:

    Kaiser Medicare Advantage plan has ranked 5 stars for more than 5 years.

  7. James A. Bailey says:

    I currently carry my Medicare through AARP/MedicareComplete insured through UnitedHealthCare and they have been my Medicare provider since I started in 2011. Last month I received a bill for three months back coverage of Medicare Part C. I called the Customer Care department and inquired about the bill. I was told that UnitedHealthCare, starting in Feb. 2015, now required all its customers to carry Part C. I ask what Part C covered and the agent was either unwilling or just did not know what Part C covered. I informed the young man that since I did not want nor could I afford the additional cost of Part C. He informed me, rather rudely, “it makes no difference if you want Part C or not, we require you to have it and if you refuse to pay the additional cost we will drop you from our coverage ad you will fall back into straight Medicare which does not cover as much as you receive with out plan”. Thinking that this rather brash young man did not know what he was talking about I called and spoke with three different agents who more or less told me the same thing and not one of them could/would tell me what Part C covered.
    Is it legal for UnitedHealthCare to require that all of their customers to have Part C at at an additional out of pocket cost? This seems to me to be nothing less than extortion. This would be similar to a department store calling you and telling you if you did not purchase a certain item they carried in their store they would cancel your credit card.
    It also seem strange to me that UnitedHealthCare waited until after the closing date for being able to switch to another medicare provider to notify their customers of this alleged requirement. Again is this legal? Can they, out of thin air, and with no advance notice. require all of their customers to pay for Part C?

  8. Thomas DeLoach says:

    Is there a more current blog with 2014 or 2015 comments. Is there a viable UHC alternative in SC? Too late for this year but would like to plan ahead.

    • liz says:

      looking for insurance in Mississippi seems this state does not have reduced rates like some of the others, I am 81 yrs old and going to dropped my BSBS with my previous employer (its self funded) and does not pay enough for the 20% it is suppose to. My months payment does not compare to what they are paying, time for a new supplement any help please

  9. Katherine B. says:

    I just turned 50, I am now on Medicare for a major disability. I have to pay 500.00 per month to get coverage. United Health Care doesn’t like it but the government makes them take us young ins who cost a fortune.

    Golden Rule /UHC has always paid my bills and covered most everything.

  10. CAROL YOUNG says:

    OMG! I’m shopping in California for my 81 year old mom who lives off of S.S. Need I say, Very limited income? Who and what do I believe? I’m ready to pull my hair our of my head and to think I am not a stupid person who has access to this information. What would she think and do with all of this (if she had access, which she doesn’t). Anybody have an idea where I should start? I thought all of this was supposed to be so EASY??

    • Dan Benson says:

      The National Council on Aging is a Non-Profit 501(c)3 organization that can provide a lot of information – for free. They can help but do not will not tell you which insurance to get because they do not work for insurance companies.

      I believe they have local chapters in all states. The one in Orange County California ( ) has periodic seminars, online help and telephone consultants. If you have questions, they can help. If you don’t know what questions to ask, they can help. Still, it is all too confusing, even for those of us who are college educated.

  11. Barbara says:

    When I signed up for United Healthcare Medicare Advantage Plan the agent said I needed a cancer policy as well because if I get cancer more than once, it will not be covered by the plan. So, an extra $21.26 per month for the ‘cancer policy.’ Seems kind of wierd to me!?


    I am 70 years old and have emblemhealth medicare PPO II. I receive a letter with the information PPO II and PPO III are not available anymore in 2015. PPO II covers pharmacy. now they have medicare advantage with a premium of $197 . I used to pay $82 dollars. Emblemhealth cover mybreast cancer surgery and reconstruction when I was in the hospital $65,000 . I only pay $350 out of packet. Now I think I am going to change insurance . I live in Nasssau County, long island. I have in mind between UnitedHealth medicare advantage or Humana. but I am not sure, my income is very low . however I would like to do the best.. l do not have too much time….. thank you for your advice…

  13. Diane says:

    I have UHC complete plan one. All was fine the first year there after the co pays and co insurance continues to rise. Then in Dec 2013 they notified their members of all the doctors they were letting go. One of them was our PCP he had told us himself so we could find a doctor elsewhere. UHC waited to the eleventh hour to notify their insured that they were doing this with a letter saying this will provide us better health care. Who are they kidding. I will be dumping them ASAP. They also did not notify me last year when we met our yearly deductible of $6700 and we continued to pay co pays and insurance co pays. They stopped sending us EOBs so I had no way of knowing. Found out by accident and had to go through the turmoil of getting providers to refund nearly $1000.00. They are unprofessional to say the least as shady. I have a lot of work experience in the health care ins. And I know a rotten egg when I smell one. They spend a fortune on sending information on their programs but can’t spend one dime to notify you of something important. Having worked in med insurance for many years this type of action could be illegal and if I had the time I would peruse it but don’t so the best for me is to get out. I give them a zero for the way they do business, buyer beware.

    • BJ says:

      I just received my letter: “Starting September 15, 2014, one or more of the doctors you have recently seen will no longer be a part of your plan’s network…….Why our network is changing. These changes with your doctor(s) are part of our effort to build a network of doctors that we can work with more closely.” Is this implying that my PCP is inferior or unethical? How gracious of them to assigned me to a new doctor! I’ve been with my doctor for over 20 years. Why in God’s good heaven would I want to change doctors and what makes Secure Horizons think they can treat American citizens in such a manner?!! AND expect us to just keep our mouths shut and be herded like sheep! I’ve already started looking for an ethical alternative to AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan2!

      • Mary G says:

        I’m pretty sure your doctor dropped that particular insurance, not that the insurance company dropped the doctor. that’s always been my experience

  14. Jan says:

    A friend referred me to AMAC for information on medicare advantage plans. My husband turned 65 in December and I will be 65 in March. Presently we have the Federal BlueCross/BlueShield. I have spent time researching medicare since September 2013 and still haven’t made a decision.

    We will both sign up in February to be effective March 1. This whole process has been a nightmare. The medicare site is confusing and frustrating. We have been looking at UHC through AARP (no I am not a member!) and may go with them.

    So here I am, joined AMAC to get information on their medicare advantage plans, have to submit my phone number for them to call. That is majorly irritating, I want to research their different programs before talking. Not sure this is going to work.

    After reading the other emails UHC is not the most reliable company. What other options are there, they all are pretty similar in their plans.

  15. Suzanne Jacobs says:

    It must be remembered that the healthcare industry has always been independent from the market place. They have never had to compete with anyone. This is the first year that any form of transformation in the American health care plan has taken place. Truman wanted to start health care reform but it never came to fruition. (The reasons are a parenthetical slippery slope scenario.) If you review the health care plans available to the uninsured you will see that the medical industry is attempting to take advantage of the system this first year and charge outrageous rates to those who can reasonably afford any insurance. ( Review the stock increases for healthcare.) If you are in the poverty level then there is cheaper options. I have opted for something other than the AARP plan this year to see what happens when the dust settles. Patience: the market place takes time to work and the medical industry has NEVER been a member of the market place. Meanwhile, any kind of choice and intelligent decisions made based on value and quality will transform a very ugly situation.

  16. john B in Calif says:

    We recently enrolled in AARP Advantage Complete plan 2 underwritten by United Health care/Secure Horizons. We have until the dend of Dec to opt and would like comments pro and con about this plan..

    • Eric DeWitt says:

      Was on that plan, they terminated the plan in our area the following year. Seems, whenever they experience a higher than average payout in a given area, they withdraw from the market.

      Their coverage was very good, but they are not dependable to stay in one given area.

      AARP does not endorse any of the advantage plans any more, per voice conversation with their offices.

      • Paul C says:

        That’s one of the disadvantages of medicare Advantage plans. AARP(United Healthcare) is not the only company terminating or changing plans. Nor is this the first or last time it will happen. That’s the risk you take with any insurance, especially Medicare Advantage.

  17. David Coker says:

    My mom has AARP Medicare Complete through United Healthcare and we received the 2014 Annual Notice of Changes in plenty of time to make a choice on whether or not to stay with her current plan. The problem is we did not receive a booklet telling us who was in the network of Providers. I called UHC, and 2 weeks later we still don’t know who is and who isn’t in the network because we still haven’t received the information requested. Was this done purposely by UHC so customers would not know who has left their network? I called again today and Keesha at UHC told me the booklet with the network providers was mailed out on Nov. 5. Well I still don’t have it. Very unprofessional and I smell something is rotten. I will give it one more day and then start looking for another company to get my mom’s Advantage Progam through.

  18. Ginny Brewton says:

    Just ran across this blog while looking for low-cost medicare plans for my 92 year old mother. She’s had a Medigap policy for years and years, but the cost has now increased to the point she can’t afford it. I am hoping to switch her to Kaiser Senior Advantage, but hope the lack of Part D on her plan won’t be a problem, as Medicare will penalize those with out “credible coverage” by imposing a fine every month. I hope her Drug discount card from Banker’s Fidelity will work.

    My daughter and son-in-law suggested Kaiser Senior Advantage for my husband and me. They are both Kaiser Doctors in CO. We are in Georgia and fortunate enough to live in a county where Kaiser is availabe. We pay NO monthly premiums, just a $30.00 co-pay for Dr. visits and high co-pays for procedures, still low enough for us to save money by not having a monthly premium…even with my recent hip-replacement! We both are very pleased with Kaiser and the Doctors we have selected. If we aren’t happy with any of them, we can just go online and with the click of a mouse can change and make a new appointment with another one!

    • Rick says:

      Kaiser coverage is a great value until you acquire a problem that Kaiser and its doctors judge too unprofitable to treat. Technically Kaiser is a “non-profit” however in practice it it extremely profit-driven because half of what it keeps ($3.3 billion in 2013) is kicked back to its MDs. The Kaiser president incentivizes all Kaiser’s MDs to engage in questionable and possibly tragic penny-pinching behavior with 50% profit-sharing bonuses (kickbacks) that averaged around $85,000 per Kaiser MD in 2013. As a case in point, four years ago in California my aunt acquired a thyroid cancer that was usually nearly 100% curable in Stage 1 (when she first saw Kaiser about her symptoms) but because her Kaiser doctors failed to provide the costly tests (such as MRIs) and care that she should have received her cancer progressed to Stage 4 and now her chances for survival are grim. While in Stage 4, the cancer even horrifically broke her leg apart and her MDs just patched-up her leg (without doing much about the actual cancer) and sent her home with some false assurances about getting great care. I tried in vain to encourage my aunt to change insurance providers and seek treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center (or somewhere equally good) ASAP but she remained convinced that her Kaiser MDs would somehow change their penny-pinching ways in time to save her. You can Google “Kaiser cancer complaints” or “Plaintiff lost leg due to Kaiser tumor negligence” or “Kaiser maximizing profits to the detriment of cancer patients” (all without the quotes) to read more about the potential horrors of Kaiser.

  19. Val Marchesini says:

    I read in the paper last month that AARP UnitedHealthcare is dropping Moffitt Cancer Center from their coverage (not that we ever used it, but it is close to where we live in Tampa). My husband got a letter a few weeks ago from them saying that his doctor will be out of network in 2014. I got a letter a few days ago from them saying that my doctor will be out of network in 2014. We had been pretty content with them since we joined about 7 years ago when Medicare Advantage first started. Now after all this, it looks like I’m going to have to start shopping around to see what the others are offering. According to Obama: ‘If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor’, ‘If you like your plan you can keep your plan’. According to Pelosi: ‘We have to pass this bill to know what is in it’. I don’t think any Democrat ever knew or cared what was in the bill before it was passed. For the small percent of people who were not covered because of pre-existing conditions and those who could not afford it and got it through Medicaid, the government would have spent much less to support them rather than screwing up the entire system for everybody. They just want to be in control of everything including everything you do on your computer, phone, where you go, what you do, etc (NSA!). I hope all those people who voted for him are happy, since he has now ‘fundamentally transformed the nation’. Hope and change!

  20. Larry Boller says:

    I have been a health care executive for over 25 years it is well known among us that United Healthcareis terrible, full of scandals (real ones) and uncaring. They do not do non-Medicare insurance in their home state of Minnesota. There is a reason for that.

    • jay says:

      Larry, I’ve had United Health Care Complete for 8 years and haven’t had any problems. Are you bitter over something. You didn’t give any specifics.

      • David Coker says:

        I know for a fact that AARP lobbied to have the Medicare Advantage program done away with. Why? So AARP, a for profit company could make millions by selling Medigap policies to all those that lost the Medicare Advantage coverage. AARP is a duplicitous and greedy bunch. That is for sure.

      • Dan Sandock says:

        Jay (you commented to Larry ) ! Are you still ok-good with UHCare(AARP) / I am considering them as it is about that time for me ! the above comments are less than supporting them as yours! I’m glad you had something positive to say and want to know if it is still that way ! thanks

  21. Art D says:

    To see the Medicare Plans Supplement unvarnished comparisons go to then enter your zip code, select a box and see how all plans in your zip code compare.

  22. Bob Barrett says:

    I have an advantage plan with inter valley health Plan at no extra cost ( Southern Calif.) and so far we are very happy with all aspects of the plan. They are a non-profit and are very big on preventative health issues. The prescription coverage is excellent. I am a veteran and they beat VA prices. I am also sick and tired of trashing AARP applications.

  23. Pat O'Connor says:

    My Mother,Dad,& lovely TRI-SOMY 21 Sister Eileen Marie Margaret O’Connor had great insuranse; I CONTINUE TO INVESTIGATE THEIR BRUTAL, COLD BLOODED MURDERS, BY THE LUCUFER/SATAN, MEDICAL FOLKS. MANY DUNGEON&DRAGON, EVIL PRACTIONERS IN MEDICINE. It is dangereous to be in any HOSPITAL, especially, CATHOLIC HOSPITALS because you’d think safe!

    Paddy O’Connor

  24. KarenFaye says:

    If AMAC can come up with an affordable supplement plan, Great! Our United is going up from $127 each to $196 each in October. Howinhell are seniors with no ADJUSTED income supposed to afford these increases? Two of the three drugs I must take have tripled since January, plus, Medicare told us the local pharmacy wasn’t “preferred “, so unless we wanted to spend an additional $8 for each scrip – (and we need 7 between us) – we now have to drive 22 miles to the pharmacy they approve of. What crapola!!! We’ve checked around and cannot find another supplement comparable any cheaper. Obama thinks anyone over 65 is deadmeat anyway, so couldn’t care less if we all croak at the same time. (He then can send our SSI money to Egypt or Pakistan for more weapons to use against us) Since he has Iran and Russia laughing at us now, we’ll all be radio active toast soon anyway.

  25. Bob Jennings says:

    To have United/aarp DRUG plan you must be a member or AARP but membership is not required to obtain supplemental health insurance plans.

  26. Bob Jennings says:

    Advantage plans were great for several years but now they are in trouble. The Obama administration severely cut their benefits.Many Drs and durable goods suppliers are not accepting patients having Advantage plans. Additionally several hospitals in my area do not accept any United Health Care plans because they cannot reach contract agreement.

  27. R. J. Johnson says:

    I have a wonderful Medicare Advantage plan. However, I have carried a supplemental (cash payment to holder) plan for at least 20 years. It pays off for hospitalization only so I never needed to use it. Recently I was hospitalized in the ICU with a first-time atrial fibrillation attack. Wonderful United Health Care denied absolutely everything for 4 ICU days and cut a check for $5l total. When I received that payment in the mail I called United and told them what they could do with their policy. Incidentally, my child worked there for a period of time and stated they were instructed to pay nothing. I keep getting renewal notices from AARP. It’s worth the postage each time to cross out AARP and insert AMAC over their logo and send it back!

  28. Denise Mullarkey says:

    I call the United AGAINST Healthcare. I don’t have them as a supplement – I have just been forced to use them through a company benefit plan – so many employees complained about UHC that we all paid for the difference in premium to go to a different.

    I won’t ever use AARP and I will avoid United Against Health care at all costs

    Right now I am in a bind – thanks President Obama – I am 56 and can’t get medical insurance any longer. Ohio has dropped high risk pools. The slightest of my medical problems was enough to deny me a chance to pay for my own insurance.

    I am applying for disability to get some kind of coverage. In the meantime, I have to wait for January and see how much the affordable care act will cost.

    Maybe then I can get the neck surgery I need to keep my esophagus from being occluded from osteophytes. But hey, a g-tube insertion would probably cost less.

  29. Beverly Van Horn says:

    I switched from United Health Care/AARP last year to CareMore and plan to switch back next year, only because I
    had to change all my doctors and don’t like that. I hope by Oct. when we can start switching, we will know how Obama
    Care will affect us.

  30. Roy says:

    We switched to Well Care when the other company failed. Of course, we had to change doctors and do not have access to Watson Clinic. We have access to two hospitals. We have had wonderful care, prescription costs great. My wife just had a pacemaker which our insurance OKayed. We have a low co-pay, but time will tell how much is paid as far as the cardiac specialist is concerned. So far, we are happy.

  31. Betty says:

    I have Humana. They will not do my cataracts yet because my I need a Referral from my Primary.

  32. ron says:

    I, also have united healthcare in a medicare supplement plan. So far, after 8 years, we have been happy with united healthcare, although we have not gone looking for other plans, as when we enrolled we were led to believe, from AARP, that this was the only company available. Now I have dropped aarp, but my wife is still a member (can’t understand why). We both are still covered by united healthcare.

    I would like to see a comparison of other plan details & premiums.

    • Linda M says:

      Ditto. Where’s the comparison with the ratings? Incomplete article IMHO.

    • Melva says:

      I dropped AARP like a hot potato along with all those other folks. Then looked, and got, a better supplemental with USAA. The same Plan F that I had had with United Healthcare. Of course that’s military related, but they do cover any senior in Texas. Too, it was about $50 a month less than I was paying. So, it does pay to shop around. Mainly I dropped United Healthcare because of it’s association with AARP, and you might say I was pretty mad at AARP. It pays to shop around and I still do that. I was informed by one of the insurance companies that all companies in Texas are required to pay the same on their Plan F. So, it was just a matter of finding who had the best rate. But hey, they all go up over time. It’s just that social security does not keep up with all their increases.

      • Bill says:

        Just a quick comment about USAA. I’ve never done business with them but they are NOT tied to the military in any way shape or form. I hate it when they advertise like they are but they do “disclaimer” their association. ANYONE can take out USAA insurance. I went online and wanted an auto insurance quote and i have served so that was no big deal. Well? says you can get a quote online but you can’t….they have to call you. I asked “Do you just take the word of some that they have served and have been discharged honorably?” The answer was yes as they ask for NO proof, plus they told me it didn’t matter….I didn’t go with them because they were over $300 a year higher than Travelers for the exact same coverage….don’t ever think it is just for military and family of military…just a gimmick to make you think they are way cheaper because it is called “USAA”….but they do disclaimer their affiliation in the fine print. So if you like them and got a good price….go with them…they will take anyone as they told me on the phone they would.

        • aav amphibs says:

          You have to be military affiliated, or veteran or passed down from parents and all that to engage in their Property and Casualty insurance. Go wreck a car and then find out that they learned you were not in the military, see if they pay up. I know what you mean because I asked the same thing when I joined, and they say they take your word for it, but believe me, they check somehow. How do I know this? I sent them a fax copy of my dd-214 and they responded that they all ready had me down as a veteran and had been verified. I wouldn’t lie.

  33. Donald Ripley says:

    My husband and I have Medicare A & B and D, plus Blue Cross Blue Shield as our supplement. We are very happy and have consistently not been required to pay anything out of pocket other than our premiums. We recently considered looking at other options and a insurance advisor told us that we need to stay with BCBS as it was the best and evidently hard to get into now. I just had cataract surgery and it was fully paid by Medicare and BCBS.

  34. Ray R says:

    Archie said,”I am particularly put off by AMAC when they offer Advantage Plan without saying who the insurance company is. You have to call them to find out. I like doing my research BEFORE I listen to a sales pitch. Until I know who
    their “better than” AARP plan coverage is, I’m not going to call or email or whatever. I don’t like “games”.
    Be up front with what you offer or I may leave this organization.”

    I agree completely. I wanted to followup on the AMAC plan, but didn’t because the insurance company wasn’t identified and a phone call was required.

    As well, I would really like to see a comparison of Medigap plans. This appears to be a better and less expensive way of getting coverage.

  35. DG Ray says:

    I am a retired Insurance agent and was in the senior market since 1967. I am totally familiar with all aspects of the way seniors think when it comes to purchasing Insurance products. I have sold thousands of Medigap policies when they were the only product available to those on Medicare. Premiums were the overriding factor that determined what decision the senior would make, coverage was second.
    Late in my career the federal govt. decided to manage the Insurance market and started to release the “Medicare Advantage” plans. These plans came with all kinds of different co-pays, deductibles and various prescription benefits. Medigap policies do not include prescriptions in their benefits, you need to purchase a separate policy.
    When I retired I needed to make a decision between a stand-alone Medigap policy or a Medicare Advantage plan. I am now in my fifth year of retirement and have been covered by three different Medicare Advantage plans during those five years.
    In my professional opinion the Medicare Advantage plans are much better and cost less. However, keep in mind that NONE of these companies have “Loyalty” printed in their policies. They are all driven by “profit”.
    During the annual enrollment period I make it a habit to shop my coverage and premiums because they can all change every year.
    You can change from one Medicare advantage plan to another without any reduction of coverage or being subject to any waiting periods. Each company will offer several different plans that will premiums from “zero”, to several with varying monthly premiums. The higher premium plans will have lower co-pays and lower deductibles. Naturally the lower premium plans will have higher co-pays and higher deductibles. I have always selected the “zero” premium plan. I have not paid a single monthly premium for my coverage during the five years I have been covered.
    There you have it, my two cents worth………………

    • Pat says:

      Thanks for your “two cents” — great info. I’ll be having to sign on to Medicare soon and am totally confused by all the options and choices.

    • Sharon says:

      I, too, worked in the insurance field for many years as a claim adjuster for medical and dental claims. My husband worked for the Federal Government and every year we went through “open season” with a choice of up to a dozen different insurance companies and plans we were eligible for. I became very adept at reading all the brochures and choosing the plan we wanted for the next year. Now that we are both on Medicare, I checked with the clinic we use as to what Medicare plans they accept and then take a very close look at each one and do my own comparisons. My dining room table is covered with paperwork right now. United is off my list because of the dropping of major facilities and physicians in our area. I am down to Humana and the Blues. Have not looked into Aetna yet as I am having trouble finding their coverage online. I feel sorry for the folks who do not have the backgrounds that most on this blog have. Good luck to everyone.

      • Bill says:

        I don’t nor ever have worked in the insurance industry. to DG Ray’s point….I don’t like changing Doctors all the time so Advantage Plans are off the table for me but they are way cheaper. Also reading from Kaiser Family Health non profit that does more research than anyone….Seniors tend to pick by “brand” and not price and lose out by doing that. I’m getting ready to make a choice so i’m reading all I can as i will be 65 in 2-1/2 months. As to Sharon’s point…You are so right…it is complicated and I don’t want a ton of sales agents calling. So…I figure I’ll do my research…then make some calls because I have been in sales before. I’ve actually learned alot just by reading here!!!

  36. Linda Peterson says:

    I was wondering I haven’t seen anything on Kaiser do you have any opinions?

    • Lainie says:

      I have had Kaiser before through my employer when I was working and was very pleased. However, I had to change when they left Tx back then. Now I have their senior Medicare Advantage plan and am very pleased with the service I receive here in CO. I sure hope ObamaCare doesn’t screw it up! Without these plans it is very difficult to find a doctor who wants to take Medicare anymore. My sister was told by her MD that she would have to find a new doctor when she became eligible for Medicare! With Kaiser I always know that I have a doctor and even if one leaves, my medical record is there and I don’t have to try to get a copy to take elsewhere. The pharmacy, lab and x-ray departments are on site. No running all over town. Mail order pharmacy saves money on prescriptions also. They seem to stay on the cutting edge of medicine. They also offer alternative medicine things like accupuncture. Like Secure Horizons (if that is still the name), they also have a no premium plan for those who need it. I recommend them highly.

  37. John says:

    No surprise to me. Although I never considered an “Advantage Plan,” I shopped hard in 2012 and 2013 for the best coverage and best price on a Medicare supplemental (Medigap) plan, and the AARP-sponsored United Health Care plan wasn’t even close. By the way, I’m a (retired) career HR/Benefits manager. I understand the nuances of coveage gaps, co-pays, coinsurance and the rest. It’s a shame that many of my company’s employees were just going to sign up for United’s plan because “it’s sponsored by AARP.” They didn’t shop around, and like many others were just confused by all the options and wanted a solution they thought they could trust.

    • Paul C says:

      I think you may find that in the long run UHC is the better deal, based on the way they do their pricing. Community rated as opposed to Attained age rated.

  38. Jennifer says:

    Why can’t you just list the primary Advantage Plan companies, then compare them side-by-side? Through my husband’s company, our “secondary insurance” is Cigna. While we are happy with the coverage, we hate the monthly premium.

  39. Tom Caldwell says:

    I have United health care no problems so far also had them when I was working full time no problems then as well. I would like to see what you have but like previous poster I NEED to know who it is first so my daughter can research them for me she works in the insurance business and helps us get what we need.

  40. fred bauder says:

    I have united health care under my retirement plan and after recent eye surgery it paid almost nothing. I would be better off dropping in and using what I would pay in premiums to cover what medicare doesn’t.

  41. Archie Hubbard says:

    While this article is informative, I would have liked seeing a list of the winners so to speak. Having a negative review without giving us a solution (s), isn’t helping us to choose wisely.
    I am particularly put off by AMAC when they offer Advantage Plan without saying who the insurance company is.
    You have to call them to find out. I like doing my research BEFORE I listen to a sales pitch. Until I know who
    their “better than” AARP plan coverage is, I’m not going to call or email or whatever. I don’t like “games”.
    Be up front with what you offer or I may leave this organization.

  42. Jack Thalman says:

    This last year and into this spring my wife’s health care exceeded $1million dollars. We have an Advantage Plan through United Health Care. Most of these bills were out of network but thanks to my son, who handles health care planning for a city, I had very little out of pocket expenses. We pay no monthly premiums and only co-pays. United Health Care has continued to monitor my wife health and is in daily touch with her.We have had this plan through AARP for several years. We are no longer members of AARP but still have the insurance coverage. We have been very happy with our coverage and the response we get from United Health /care.

    • Yvonne says:

      I called United Health Care and ask if I had to be a member of AARP for their coverage. They said yes, how is it you are not a member of AARP yet have the United Health Care insurance. Was my information incorrect. I don’t want any part of AARP either!

      • Dave Auerbach says:

        One does not need to be a member of AARP to obtain a Medicare Advantage Plan through United Healthcare.
        I haven’t been a member of AARP for a number of years and was not a member when I initially enrolled.

      • Terry Adams says:

        You were misinformed. That was the first question I asked my agent. You do not have to join AARP.

        • DFBertsch says:

          You do need to join AARP to purchase their Medicare Supplement (Medigap) policies however, It is not required for their (part C) Medicare Advantage Plans.

          • Paul C says:

            That’s incorrect.. You do not need to join AARP to purchase the medigap policies. Being a member of AARP entitles you to a discounted premium, which in some instances substantial.

            • Paul C says:

              I stand corrected. DF above is correct.
              You do need to join AARP to purchase their Medicare Supplement (Medigap) policies however, It is not required for their (part C) Medicare Advantage Plans.

      • sharon duff says:

        We have a Medicare Advantage plan thru AARP and ARE NOT AARP members. Ours is AARP Medicare Complete PPO. We are In Florida and it covers all the better doctors and hospitals. So far they have been great thru a year of cancer treatment for my husband. They did offer some extra perks that I have noticed will be gone in 2014 and some of the co pays and out of pocket expenses have been raised. However, in comparison with other quality plans (such as Humana) they are all doing this and it all just about equals out. Make no mistake, each of these companies know what the others are offering and do try to stay competitive.

  43. Adeena Pomerenke says:

    Interesting. Those plans you said were best are not available where we live. Although I hate having the AARP letters on my health card they are A. Those most affordable B. All my doctors take that plan. C. A number of them will not accept Humana. United health Care has paid promptly and I have had no problem finding a specialist with them. I would be delighted to find another plan without AARP branding but so far have not found one. I am not a member of theirs nor have I been for over 25 yrs. So I will continue to watch for another one but will not give up the doctors I have just because I don’t like AARP.

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