Blue Cross Blue Shield vs. Kaiser Permanente

In this article...
  • In this review, we compare Blue Cross Blue Shield vs. Kaiser Permanente, including the Medicare plans each company offers, how much they cost, what they cover and more.

Kaiser Permanente only sells Medicare insurance plans in a handful of states. But beneficiaries in those select areas may have a choice between Kaiser and Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare plans for their Medicare health and prescription drug benefits.

While Blue Cross Blue Shield is a much larger company, the only thing that matters at the end of the day is getting the best coverage for your needs at the most affordable price. And in this respect, smaller carriers like Kaiser Permanente can more than hold their own against the big boys. 

So without further ado, below is our comparison of Kaiser Permanente vs. Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Kaiser Permanente: Higher Medicare Star Ratings

When it comes to quality, there is no second-guessing Kaiser Permanente Medicare plans. Every year, Medicare evaluates plans on a 5-star rating system. Kaiser Medicare Advantage plans earned a perfect five-star rating for its Medicare Advantage plans in all states where they sell plans, except for Washington state, where Kaiser plans earned a rating of 4.5 stars.1

Kaiser Permanente only sells Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans. Unlike some other insurance companies, Kaiser doesn’t offer standalone Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, although Part D drug coverage is available through most Kaiser Medicare Advantage plans.

Kaiser sells a variety of Medicare Advantage plan types, such as Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans and Special Needs Plans (SNPs). However, Kaiser’s most common type of Medicare plan are Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans. This type of managed care is popular with beneficiaries who like to have their care coordinated within a network by a primary care physician. 

Some Kaiser Medicare Advantage plans include coverage for prescription drugs, dental, vision and hearing care. In certain locations, some or all of these benefits may require a small additional monthly premium to have them added to your plan. 

Kaiser Permanente is popular among Medicare beneficiaries, thanks to its unique business model and reputation for high-quality plans. To highlight just how popular Kaiser’s Medicare Advantage plans are, consider this: Kaiser only sells Medicare Advantage plans in eight states and Washington D.C., yet 7% of all Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in the nation are part of a Kaiser Permanente Medicare plan.   

Kaiser Permanente is a well-established insurance company that dates back to 1945 and today serves around 12 million members. While Kaiser has a relatively small footprint, it’s among the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plans.

Kaiser has a unique business model in that the company is both a health insurance provider and health care provider. Members of Kaiser Medicare plans may visit a Kaiser Permanente hospital or medical facility when they use their coverage.

Blue Cross Blue Shield: Wider Availability of Medicare Plans


Blue Cross Blue Shield might be the most recognizable name in the insurance industry. More than 106 million people in the U.S. are insured by BCBS or one of the company’s many affiliates.2 This equals nearly 1 out of every 3 Americans!

Blue Cross Blue Shield is a staple at workplaces across the U.S. with its collection of employer-sponsored plans. They also offers an array of policies for individuals and families. 

When it comes to Medicare, Blue Cross Blue Shield covers all the bases as well. The company sells Medicare Advantage plans in 44 states, Medicare Part D prescription drug plans in 41 states and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans in all 50 states. 

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage plan lineup includes the common HMO, PPO, and Special Needs Plans, but also features additional options like POS (Point-Of-Service) plans, PFFS (Private Fee-For-Service) plans and even Medicare cost plans. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage plans commonly include coverage for prescription drugs, dental, vision, hearing and fitness memberships like the SilverSneakers program

Blue Cross offers at least two Medicare Part D plans in each market it serves with many states having three distinct options. 

For Medicare Supplement Insurance, Blue Cross Blue Shield offers nine of the 10 standardized Medigap plans available in most states. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield has plenty of variation in terms of quality, due to the dozens of local and regional affiliates that all garner their own quality ratings from the CMS. But for 2021, Blue Cross Blue Shield averaged 3.75 stars for its Medicare Advantage plans and 3.77 stars for its Medicare Part D plans. 

Choosing Blue Cross Blue Shield or Kaiser Permanente

The best plan for any Medicare shopper is the one with the right coverage for their particular health care needs at the most competitive price. 

That being said, it’s hard to argue with the diverse plan selection and widespread availability of Blue Cross Blue Shield plans. 

However, Kaiser Permanente has built a reputation for providing high-quality Medicare Advantage plans that remain popular among beneficiaries. 

If you live in an area that is serviced by both companies, review all of your available options and determine the best Medicare plan for you.

Read More
woman smiling during eye exam
Aetna offers insurance plans that cover vision care, both through standalone vision insurance policies ...
A woman lays on a yoga mat and stretches
Many Aetna Medicare plans offer free membership to SilverSneakers, a popular fitness and wellness ...