AARP by UnitedHealthcare insurance policies are a collaboration between a senior advocacy group and an insurance company. Those interested in these policies may like to know a little about both of the organizations behind the policies. AARP, the advocacy group, was founded by Ethel Percy Andrus in 1958 and is now led by CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. Over 38 million seniors are members of AARP, enjoying the educational materials, discounts, and other benefits that the group provides. UnitedHealthcare (also called UnitedHealthcare Group), the insurance company, began in 1977 in Minnetonka, Minnesota. It has since become the largest health insurance company in America. Ranking 7th on the Fortune 500 list, this company is well known for the health coverage that it offers in all 50 states as well as around the world.
The partnership of AARP and UnitedHealthcare can be difficult to understand, but it has existed since 1997- over 20 years. Essentially, AARP recognizes that different seniors have different insurance needs, so it does not necessarily endorse the use of UnitedHealthcare products for all of its members. However, AARP acknowledges UnitedHealthcare as a trusted healthcare partner and resource. The AARP name is attached to numerous Medicare-related forms of UnitedHealthcare insurance, including Medicare Supplement insurance. UnitedHealthcare pays AARP for the use of the AARP name, and seniors must be members of AARP if they want to purchase these insurance policies.
As of 2018, UnitedHealthcare provides 34% of all Medicare Supplement Insurance in the U.S., making it the company with the largest share of the Medicare Supplement insurance market.
These Medicare Supplement policies, also sometimes called “Medigap”, are not paid for by Medicare, but they are designed to work with traditional Medicare coverage. Medigap insurance helps seniors manage their Medicare costs since Medicare on its own leaves seniors with numerous out-of-pocket expenses, as can be seen in this article “Medicare Costs at a Glance”. Without supplemental insurance, the deductibles, copays, and coinsurance of traditional Medicare can be difficult to meet, particularly due to the fact that you can’t really know ahead of time how much medical care and hospitalization you’ll require in a year.
To render Original Medicare expenses more manageable, a Medicare Supplement plan from AARP by UnitedHealthcare covers some of the copays, deductibles, and coinsurance costs that patients would otherwise have to cover on their own. It also covers some things that Medicare doesn’t cover, such as blood transfusions, “excess” charges that occur when doctors charge more than Medicare covers, and more. Exactly how much Medicare Supplement insurance covers depends on the plan. Medicare Supplement plans are similar across all companies since they are required to meet high standards set by federal and state regulators, but slight variations in plans do exist.
AARP by UnitedHealthcare, like all Medicare Supplement insurance providers, can only offer certain standardized plans. Its main plan offerings are A, B, G, K, L, and N, though it also offers plans C, F, and High-Deductible F to some seniors. According to new Medicare regulations, plans C, F, and variants thereof can only be offered to those who were eligible for a Medigap policy prior to January 1, 2020. Some other companies offer other standardized plans, including plans D and M, which AARP by United Healthcare has chosen not to provide.
The table below provides coverage details for all six of the standardized plans AARP by UnitedHealthcare offers to those newly eligible for Medicare. All of these plans also include Part A hospital costs and coinsurance coverage for up to 365 days beyond what Medicare benefits typically cover.
|AARP by UnitedHealthcare Medicare Supplement Options|
|Supplement Option||Copay and Coinsurance Coverage||Deductible Coverage||Part B Excess Charges*||Blood Transfusions (3 Pints)||Out-Of-Pocket Spending Limit||Overseas Medical Care/ Expenses|
|A||-Part A -Part B -Hospice||✖||✖||✔||✖||✖|
|B||-Part A -Part B -Hospice||Part A||✖||✔||✖||✖|
|G||-Part A -Part B -Hospice -Skilled Nursing Facility||Part A||✔||✔||✖||80%|
|K||-Part A -50% Part B -50% Hospice -50% Skilled Nursing Facility||50% of Part A||✖||50%||$5,880||✖|
|L||-Part A -75% Part B -75% Hospice -75% Skilled Nursing Facility||75% of Part A||✖||75%||$2,940||✖|
|N||-Part A -Part B** -Hospice -Skilled Nursing Facility||Part A||✖||✔||✖||80%|
The above six plans are all available in most locations, but there are a few exceptions. If you live in Massachusetts, Minnesota, or Wisconsin you’ll be offered a totally different variety of plans specific to your state. This is simply due to the fact that these states have decided to abide by different regulations. You can learn more about these plan styles by reading “How to Compare Medigap Policies” and following the included links to information on these states’ unique regulations.
In addition to the substantially different plans offered in the states above, a small number of states also allow for variants of standard plans that are called “select plans.” These plans abide by all of the same rules outlined in the chart, except that in order to get the promised coverage you must only get “in-network care.” A health network is a pre-approved list of doctors and facilities with whom the company regularly does business. Networks are common in many other types of insurance as well. Networks are always determined by the insurance company and can change rapidly at times or be quite complex, with numerous exceptions. Note that the plan title of “Select Plan G1” is an example of the format that these plans may be designated with on the AARP by UnitedHealthcare website. Plans G and N are the most common plans that will be offered in select versions.
Medicare Supplement plans from AARP by UnitedHealthcare have monthly premiums between roughly $45-$300. However, many plans are available for between about $80-$150. Plan K, L, and N will typically be the least expensive plans if offered in your area, and plans C and F (if you’re eligible) will be the most expensive. Your location has a huge impact on your costs, with variations of $100 or more for the same plan in different locations. Large metropolitan areas typically have the highest premiums. “Select” plans tend to cost about $10 less per month than their regular counterparts, though their coverage is substantially more limited.
One important thing to understand about Medicare Supplement costs is that they can change over time in different ways depending on their pricing models. If your policy has “attained age” pricing, your premiums increase regularly with your age. “Issue age” pricing means that your premium cost is based on your age when you first get the policy but does not rise later based on your age. With “community pricing,” your premium cost is not affected by your age whatsoever. Attained age pricing is very popular among many companies, but AARP by UnitedHealthcare often chooses to offer community pricing or issue age pricing instead. Which pricing style you get will vary by state. Note that in all of these pricing styles, rates can and will still rise over the years for other reasons, such as in response to inflation.
Anyone interested in getting a Medicare Advantage plan needs to keep in mind that the timing of signing up affects their costs more than perhaps any other factor does. If you sign up within the first six months of your 65th birthday, you typically are granted “guaranteed issue” rights, but you may have guaranteed issue in other situations as well. If you don’t have these rights, then a company may charge you extra or even deny you coverage based on your age or your health. Reading “When Can I Buy Medigap?” will help you better understand how guaranteed issue influences costs.
AARP by UnitedHealthcare Medicare Supplement insurance, as its name implies, is offered through the combined efforts of two groups. However, UnitedHealthcare is by far more directly involved in the actual operation of these plans than AARP is. Considering this, it makes the most sense to look at reviews of UnitedHealthcare rather than reviews of AARP when trying to determine the quality of these plans.
Reviews of UnitedHealthcare are plentiful online. Across a variety of websites, including the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Google Reviews, and Trustpilot, the company has an average rating of 2.6 out of 5 stars. Most reviews do not directly comment on the Medicare Supplements that UnitedHealthcare offers, but they do speak to the quality of the services provided by the company as a whole.
Positive reviews of UnitedHealthcare seem to come from a variety of sources. Relatively few are obviously from customers, but those that are usually mention specific customer service representatives that were helpful or friendly. Words like “positive” and “professional” are used multiple times in Trustpilot reviews. Many other positive reviews simply have five stars but do not have actual comments. It’s unclear whether most comments without text are left by customers or employees, as UnitedHealthcare employees do also leave many reviews commenting that they enjoy working there.
Most negative reviews of UnitedHealthcare bring up specific grievances regarding coverage denials. The denials of coverage that some customers cite may affect Medicare Supplement insurance customers less than they affect customers of other health plans. This is due to the fact that Medicare Supplement insurance is very tightly regulated.
Another problem mentioned in multiple reviews is that customer service can be lacking. Multiple customers say that they received inaccurate quotes or otherwise were given inconsistent information from company representatives. One reviewer who posted on the BBB said that “United Healthcare’s customer service is poor (I spoke with 4 different representatives who provided different answers as to why a certain benefit had changed).”