Kaiser Permanente vs. UnitedHealthcare

In this article...
  • Our review of Kaiser Permanente vs. UnitedHealthcare highlights the differences in each insurance company's Medicare plans, including costs, coverage, benefits and more. Learn more and find out if a Kaiser Medicare plan or UHC Medicare plans are best for you.

Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealthcare each sell a variety of Medicare plans. But no two insurance companies are quite the same, so in this review, we break down the differences between Kaiser vs. UnitedHealthcare so you can better decide which type of coverage is the best Medicare plan for your needs.

Kaiser Permanente: Higher Medicare Star Ratings 


Every year, Medicare evaluates plans on a 5-star rating system. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rates all Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D carriers based on factors such as plan performance, customer service and patient outcomes.

For 2021, UnitedHealthcare earned an overall Medicare Star Rating of 3.5 stars.1 Three stars is considered average, and a 4-star or 5-star rating is considered to be top rated. 

Kaiser, however, received a perfect five-star rating in California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, the Mid-Atlantic and the Northwest, and they received a a 4.5-star rating in Washington state.2

UnitedHealthcare: Wider Medicare Plan Availability


UnitedHealthcare sells Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans, Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans in most parts of the U.S. wherever such plans are sold. 

UnitedHealthcare owns the largest share of the market for Medicare Advantage plans. In fact, 26% of all Medicare Advantage plan beneficiaries are enrolled in a UnitedHealthcare Medicare plan.

Kaiser Permanente’s footprint is far smaller, however. Kaiser sells Medicare Advantage in just eight states and the District of Columbia (CA, CO, GA, HI, MD, OR, VA and WA).

While many of Kaiser’s Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage, the company does not sell any standalone Medicare Part D plans. Nor does Kaiser sell Medicare Supplement Insurance. 

Kaiser vs. UnitedHealthcare: Medicare Plan Selection

Kaiser Permanente sells HMO (Health Maintenance Organization), PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) and POS (Point-Of-Service) Medicare Advantage plans. But the company’s main focus is its HMO offerings. 

HMO plans are a form of managed care in which a primary care physician coordinates your care through a team of participating health care providers. These plans emphasize quality of care and results over freedom and flexibility, as HMO members are restricted to using only the plan’s network of participating providers for care. 

UnitedHealthcare offers the same types of Medicare Advantage plans while also offering PFFS (Private Fee-For-Service) and Special Needs Plans. Special Needs Plans are custom-built to the specific needs of a beneficiary with a particular health condition or financial situation.

In addition to its Medicare Advantage plans, UnitedHealthcare also offers three different Medicare Part D plans and sells nine of the 10 standardized Medicare Supplement Insurance plans that are available in most states.

Kaiser vs. UnitedHealthcare: Medicare Plan Costs

We compared Kaiser Permanente vs. UHC Medicare Advantage plan costs in Los Angeles, CA, to get a better idea of how each insurance company's Medicare plans stack up as values.

Kaiser Permanente offers just one Medicare Advantage plan in Los Angeles in 2021. It’s an HMO plan with a $0 monthly premium, and it includes prescription drug coverage. However, if you want dental and hearing benefits, you may have to pay $16 per month to have these added to the plan. 

UnitedHealthcare offers seven Medicare Advantage plans in Los Angeles, six of which are HMO plans and one that's a POS plan. There are $0 premium options, including a $0 premium plan that includes coverage for prescription drugs, dental, vision and hearing. 

Please note that these are just a sample of plans available in one location. There may be additional Medicare plan options available where you live. The best way to compare plans, including their costs and coverage, is to compare plans online or call to speak with a licensed insurance agent.

Choosing Kaiser Permanente or UnitedHealthcare

Choosing a carrier for your Medicare insurance coverage is highly personal and depends largely on the available selection in your area and the specific benefits you value most. 

In our comparison, we found UnitedHealthcare to have the advantage over Kaiser Permanente in terms of plan availability, selection and cost. However, Kaiser has the leg up when it comes to quality. 

As always, review all Medicare plan options available where you live in order to make the best decision for your individual needs. 

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