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 2023, UnitedHealthcare earned an overall Medicare Star Rating of 4.28 stars when weighted by enrollment.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, and the Mid-Atlantic to go along with a 4.5-star rating in Washington state and a 4.0-star rating in the Northwest.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, 29% 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 representing just 6% of the market. 

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. 

Medicare Plan Selections for Kaiser vs. UnitedHealthcare

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.

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How Much do Kaiser and UHC Medicare Advantage Plans Cost?

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.

The following example premiums are taken from the Medicare.gov plan finder tool in October 2023 for plan year 2024 and are not a complete list of plans available in each ZIP code.

Plan premiums vary and may be different where you live, and there may be more, fewer or different plans available where you live. Contact a licensed insurance agent or compare plans online to find your local options.

Kaiser Permanente offers just two Medicare Advantage plans in Los Angeles in 2024. Both are HMO plans with a $0 monthly premium that include prescription drug coverage along with dental and vision benefits.

UnitedHealthcare offers eight Medicare Advantage plans in Los Angeles, six of which are HMO-POS plans and two that are PPO plans. There are $0 premium options, including plans with a $0 premium that include 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. 

  1. NerdWallet. UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage 2023 Review https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/insurance/medicare/unitedhealthcare-medicare-advantage

  2. Kaiser Permanente. Star quality. https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/pages/medicare-star-quality-ratings

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