UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage 2022 Review

UnitedHealthcare makes well-rated plans widely available, but member satisfaction is just so-so.

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UnitedHealthcare was the largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans in 2021

and offers plans in nearly three-quarters of counties in the United States. UnitedHealthcare also partners with AARP, insuring the Medicare products that carry the AARP name.

The vast majority (95%) of UnitedHealthcare members are in highly rated plans, and UnitedHealthcare gets high marks overall. But the provider ranks sixth out of the nine largest Medicare Advantage providers in a recent member satisfaction survey.

Here’s what you should know about UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage.

UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage pros and cons

UnitedHealthcare’s offerings have advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

  • Largest network: UnitedHealthcare offers the largest Medicare Advantage network of all companies, with more than 1 million network care providers.

  • Highly rated plans: UnitedHealthcare has 57 contracts rated 4 stars or higher by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and none of its plans scored below 3.5 stars.

  • Home benefits: UnitedHealthcare offers $0 copay telehealth visits, as well as annual home health visits for members who need a house call.

  • Strong advocate network: UnitedHealthcare offers members the chance to work with expert advocates if they have care questions, as well as care coordinators if they’re dealing with complex health issues.

Cons

  • Member satisfaction ratings: Despite being a behemoth in the industry, UnitedHealthcare's member satisfaction scores in J.D. Power’s recent 2021 Medicare Advantage Study were tied for sixth place out of nine providers.

  • Special Needs Plans can get pricey: While there are plenty of $0-premium plans available, UnitedHealthcare also offers the highest-priced Special Needs Plans, or SNPs, in 2022, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the cost for plans that fit your needs.

Available UHC Medicare Advantage plans

UnitedHealthcare offers several kinds of Medicare Advantage plans, and they vary in terms of structure, costs and benefits available.

In general, UnitedHealthcare offers Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans, as well as stand-alone prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage Plans without drug coverage. UHC also offers Medicare Advantage Patriot Plans, which are geared toward veterans and other people with existing drug coverage.

Other plan offerings include the following types:

A health maintenance organization, or HMO, generally requires that you use a specific network of doctors and hospitals. You may need a referral from your primary doctor in order to see a specialist, and out-of-network benefits are usually very limited.

HMO point-of-service plans are HMO plans that allow members to get some out-of-network services, but you’ll pay more for those services.

Preferred provider organization, or PPO, plans provide the most freedom, allowing you to see any provider that accepts the insurance. You may not need to choose a primary doctor, and you don’t need referrals to see specialists. You can seek out-of-network care, although it may cost more than seeing an in-network doctor.

UnitedHealthcare’s private fee-for-service, or PFFS, plans allow you to see any Medicare-approved provider who accepts your UnitedHealthcare plan. You won’t have to pick a primary doctor, and you won’t need a referral to see a specialist.

Special needs plans, or SNPs, restrict membership to people with certain diseases or characteristics. Hence, the benefits, network and drug formularies are tailored to the needs of those members. UnitedHealthcare offers three types of SNPs:

  • Chronic Condition SNP: Designed to meet the needs of members living with certain chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes or chronic heart failure.

  • Dual-Eligible SNP: For people who are entitled to Medicare and who also qualify for assistance from a state Medicaid program.

  • Institutional plans: Provide specialized care to members who live in skilled nursing or assisted living facilities and need an institutional level of care.

Additional benefits

UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage offers most MA members access to dental care (and the largest Medicare Advantage dental network), eye exams and discounted hearing aids. Many of its plans offer other benefits as well. Here are a few standouts:

  • Fitness benefits: UnitedHealthcare’s Renew Active fitness program gives members access to a large network of gyms and fitness facilities, as well as local classes and events. Members can also access a library of online workout videos and an online brain health program from AARP Staying Sharp.

  • Food and over-the-counter allowance: Some plan members may get an allowance they can put toward their choice of healthy foods and covered over-the-counter items like cough and cold meds, first-aid supplies, vitamins and pain relievers.

  • Healthy rewards: Members may be able to earn rewards for completing health-related tasks, such as getting their annual physical, flu shot, preventive screenings, or by being active and tracking steps.

  • Home health visits: Most plans include HouseCalls, a program that offers members an annual visit with a licensed clinician in their home, which can be used to help manage care.

  • Member advocates: Members with questions about their health and health plan can be matched with expert advocates through UHC’s Advocate4Me program. These advocates can help guide members to help them make informed choices.

  • Care coordinators for complex problems: People facing complex health issues can be paired with a single point of contact to help them coordinate care, manage claims and get support with other needs through UHC’s Navigate4Me program.

  • Telehealth: Nearly all plans offer $0 copays for telehealth visits.

Customer service

UnitedHealthcare members can contact their plan’s customer service in the following ways:

  • Call the number on their member ID card.

  • Chat with a service advocate (available once members log in to their member page).

  • Call 800-721-0627 (TTY: 711) for technical issues 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central Time, seven days a week.

  • Connect with UHC on Twitter or Facebook.

UnitedHealthcare service area

UnitedHealthcare offers Medicare Advantage plans in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Altogether, UnitedHealthcare offers plans in 2,377 counties, or 74% of counties in the U.S. — the second-highest number among providers (Humana tops the list)

Kaiser Family Foundation. Medicare Advantage 2022 Spotlight: First Look. Accessed Jul 5, 2022.
. Ninety-four percent of Medicare beneficiaries have the option of a UnitedHealthcare plan.

Overall, UnitedHealthcare is the largest health insurer in the country, with more than 8 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan as of June 2022. The company added 765,000 new members for the 2022 plan year, according to a report from health care analytics firm The Chartis Group

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Cost

Costs for Medicare Advantage plans will depend on your plan, your geographic location and your health needs. One of the costs to consider is the plan’s premium, and UnitedHealthcare estimates that 3 million of its Medicare Advantage members will have $0 premiums in 2022. In total, about 60% of UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare Advantage plans are $0-premium plans

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 2022 MA Landscape Source Files (v 10 26 21) (ZIP). Accessed Jul 5, 2022.
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For 2022 UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans with a premium, the monthly consolidated premium (including Part C and Part D) ranges from $9 to $199. For special needs plans, or SNPs, with a premium, monthly premiums range from $3.70 to $199

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 2022 SNP Landscape Source Files (v 10 26 21) (ZIP). Accessed Jul 5, 2022.
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Even as a Medicare Advantage user, you’ll still be responsible for paying your Medicare Part B premium, which is at least $170.10 per month in 2022. (Most people pay this standard amount, but if your income is above a certain threshold, you’ll pay more.)

Other out-of-pocket costs to consider include:

  • Whether the plan covers any part of your monthly Medicare Part B premium.

  • The plan’s yearly deductibles and any other deductibles, such as a drug deductible.

  • Copayments and/or coinsurance for each visit or service. For instance, there may be a $10 copay for seeing your primary doctor and a $45 copay for seeing a specialist.

  • The plan’s in-network and out-of-network out-of-pocket maximums.

  • Whether your medical providers are in network or out of network, or how often you may go out of network for care.

  • Whether you require extra benefits, and if the plan charges for them.

To get a sense of costs, use Medicare’s plan finding tool to compare information among available plans in your area. You can select by insurance carrier to see only UnitedHealthcare plans, or compare across carriers. You can also shop directly from UnitedHealthcare’s website by entering your ZIP code, and you’ll be able to compare the plans available.

UHC Medicare star ratings

Average star rating: 4.2

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services maintains its own database of star ratings on every Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug plan, ranging from best (5 stars) to worst (1 star). The agency bases these ratings on plans’ quality of care and measurements of customer satisfaction, and ratings may change from year to year.

All Medicare Advantage plans are evaluated on health plan measures, and Medicare Advantage plans that include prescription drug coverage are also evaluated on drug plan measures.

Based on the most recent year of data, UnitedHealthcare’s 2022 Medicare Advantage plans got an average of 4.2 stars on both health plan measures and prescription drug coverage measures. The overall average score for UnitedHealthcare's plans is 4.2 stars

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 2022 Star Ratings Data Table (Oct 06 2021) (ZIP). Accessed Jul 5, 2022.
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For comparison, the average star rating for plans from all providers was 4.37

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 2022 Star Ratings Fact Sheet_10_8_2021 (PDF). Accessed Jul 5, 2022.
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Thirteen UnitedHealthcare contracts received 5-star ratings, and another nine received 4.5 stars. No 2022 contracts received fewer than 3.5 stars. There were also 12 contracts too new or otherwise lacking enough data to be rated.

Of UnitedHealthcare members who are in Medicare Advantage contracts with a star rating, nearly all (95%) are in contracts rated 4.0 or above as of June 2022

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Monthly Enrollment by Contract, 2022-06. Accessed Jul 5, 2022.
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To get an overall star rating, the CMS ranks contracts on 40 plan factors. (You can find definitions for each of these factors in the CMS Star Ratings Technical Notes.) Here’s where UnitedHealthcare plans received average scores of 4.5 (out of 5) and above:

  • Plan makes timely decisions about appeals.

  • Reviewing appeals decisions.

  • Health plan: Call center — foreign language interpreter and TTY availability.

  • Drug plan: Call center — foreign language interpreter and TTY availability.

  • Complaints about the drug plan.

  • Complaints about the health plan.

  • Diabetes care — kidney disease monitoring.

  • Care for older adults — pain assessment.

  • Diabetes care — blood sugar controlled.

  • Drug plan quality improvement.

UnitedHealthcare contracts averaged a sub-3.0 score in just two categories. (You can find definitions for each of these factors in the CMS Star Ratings Technical Notes.)

  • Reducing the risk of falling.

  • Improving bladder control.

You can find a plan’s rating with the Medicare plan finding tool.

Third-party ratings

There are a few companies that weigh in on health plans or on the strength of the company in question, and we’ve included three here:

AM Best Financial Strength Rating: A+ (Superior)

AM Best is a credit rating agency that specializes in the insurance industry. In December 2021, AM Best upgraded its Financial Strength Rating to A+ (Superior) for most of the companies collectively referred to as UnitedHealthcare. An A+ rating in this category indicates that AM Best believes UnitedHealthcare has a superior ability to meet its ongoing insurance obligations

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J.D. Power Ranking: 6th out of 10

In its 2021 U.S. Medicare Advantage Study — the seventh it's done so far — J.D. Power measured member satisfaction with Medicare Advantage plans based on six factors: coverage and benefits, provider choice, cost, customer service, information and communication, and billing and payment. On these measures, UnitedHealthcare scored 795 points out of 1,000 and tied for sixth place out of the top nine Medicare Advantage providers

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NCQA Score Range: 2.5 to 4.0 out of 5

The National Committee for Quality Assurance rates health insurance plans on a 5-point scale (with 5 being best) based on clinical quality, member satisfaction and results from the NCQA Accreditation Survey. The ratings highlight the results of care and what patients say about their care.

In its September 2021 ratings of UnitedHealthcare plans, NCQA awarded ratings between 2.5 and 4.0 stars. Among the company’s plans with ratings, a significant majority (71%) received scores of 3.5 or 4.0, but there were 12 plans with 3.0 stars and 13 plans with 2.5 stars

NCQA. Health Plans. Accessed Jul 5, 2022.
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Compare alternatives

See how Medicare Advantage competitors stack up to UnitedHealthcare.

Compare Medicare Advantage providers

Percent in a 4-star plan or higher: 85%.

Service area: 46 states and Washington, D.C.

Average Medicare star rating: 3.8 stars.

Percent in a 4-star plan or higher: 72%.

Service area: 24 states and Puerto Rico.

Average Medicare star rating: 3.9 stars.

Percent in a 4-star plan or higher: 85%.

Service area: 44 states.

Average Medicare star rating: 4.1 stars.

Percent in a 4-star plan or higher: 84%.

Service area: 26 states and Washington, D.C.

Average Medicare star rating: 4.2 stars.

Percent in a 4-star plan or higher: 98%.

Service area: 47 states and Puerto Rico.

Average Medicare star rating: 4.1 stars.

Percent in a 4-star plan or higher: 100%.

Service area: 8 states and Washington, D.C.

Average Medicare star rating: 5 stars.

Percent in a 4-star plan or higher: 95%.

Service area: 50 states, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Average Medicare star rating: 4.2 stars.

Percent in a 4-star plan or higher: 53%.

Service area: 36 states.

Average Medicare star rating: 3.6 stars.

Find the right Medicare Advantage plan

It’s important to do your research before selecting a health plan for yourself. Here are some questions to consider asking:

  • What are the plan’s costs? Do you understand what the plan’s premium, deductibles, copays and/or coinsurance will be? Can you afford them?

  • Is your doctor in network? If you have a preferred medical provider or providers, make sure they participate in the plan’s network.

  • Are your prescriptions covered? If you’re on medication, it’s crucial to understand how the plan covers it. What tier are your prescription drugs on, and are there any coverage rules that apply to them?

  • Is there dental coverage? Does the plan offer routine coverage for vision, dental and hearing needs?

  • Are there extras? Does the plan offer any extra benefits, such as fitness memberships, transportation benefits or meal delivery?

If you have additional questions about Medicare, visit Medicare.gov or call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227, TTY 877-486-2048).

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