Cigna vs. United Healthcare - Which is Better for You in 2017?

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Cigna vs. UnitedHealthcare: An In-Depth Comparison

  • Over 1,489,000 Medicare enrollees
  • Medigap monthly premiums as low as $40
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  • Over 9 million Medicare enrollees
  • Medigap monthly premiums† as low as $50
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If you’ve been searching for a Medicare plan, you’ve likely come across two companies: Cigna vs. United Healthcare. These organizations are two of the largest health insurers in the United States, and each offers coverage to Medicare beneficiaries.

But how do the companies differ? We’ve researched both health insurers to give you an idea of which plans each company offers and where these plans are available. In 2017, you can purchase only Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans from Cigna due to a sanction by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).1 It’s unclear if the sanction will be lifted in 2018, but you can be sure we’ll update this page if we get more information.

Note that Cigna-HealthSpring is actually a company division that underwrites Medigap plans, but we use Cigna to refer to either part of the organization.

Cigna vs. United Healthcare company comparison

Access to provider networksProvider network information unavailable1 million physicians and specialists and 6,000 hospitals and clinics in the United States
Medicare Advantage AvailabilityCurrently unavailable due to CMS sanctionNationwide
Medicare Supplement Availability36 states and DCNationwide
Prescription Drug AvailabilityCurrently unavailable due to CMS sanctionNationwide
Advantage HMO Plans2Currently unavailable due to CMS sanction55
Advantage HMO-POS Plans2Currently unavailable due to CMS sanction9
Advantage PPO Plans2
(local & regional)
Currently unavailable due to CMS sanction25
Advantage PFFS Plans2Currently unavailable due to CMS sanction2
Medicare Supplement OptionsA, B, C, D, F, G, N, and high-deductible FA, B, C, F, K, L, and N
Prescription Drug Plan Options3Currently unavailable due to CMS sanction8 plans
Financial rankingsAA- 4A+ 5

Data effective 04/26/2017.

Comparing access to provider networks

Cigna has a wide commercial provider network for its non-Medicare members. But if you’re a Medicare beneficiary, the only way to access these providers is with a Medicare Advantage plan—which Cigna currently doesn’t sell. If you buy Medigap, you can generally visit any provider who accepts Medicare. UnitedHealthcare gives its Advantage members access to a network that includes more than 1 million doctors and specialists and more than 6,000 facilities.6

So, in terms of available providers, United has the bigger pool. But what’s important is whether you have access to the doctors or specialists you need in your area. Visit UnitedHealthcare to search for in-network providers.

How plan availability may impact your decision

UnitedHealthcare is a large part of the Medicare plan market, offering Advantage plans, Supplement plans, and PDPs across the nation. In addition, you can get Special Needs Plans (SNPs), which are designed for people with certain conditions or living situations. Remember, Cigna doesn’t currently offer Advantage plans or PDPs, so UnitedHealthcare is your only option between the two.

You can currently purchase only Supplement plans from Cigna, but if that’s what you’re looking for, you can purchase one in almost every state. Cigna doesn’t sell Supplement plans in New York or Massachusetts.

Comparing Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs)

Because Cigna is sanctioned from selling Advantage plans and PDPs, the comparison is pretty simple: UnitedHealthcare offers the better choice for both plans. If we learn that Cigna’s sanctions are lifted, we will update this page to provide you an in-depth comparison of each company’s plans in these markets.

UnitedHealthcare Advantage and prescription plans

Plan typePlan name(s)Monthly premium
HMO*AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan 1
$0
HMO*AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan 2$0
HMO*AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan 3$26.70
HMO*AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Essential$0
PPO*None availableN/A
PDP*AARP MedicareRx Walgreens$22.40
PDP*Symphonix Value Rx$30.60
PDP*AARP MedicareRx Saver Plus$33.40
PDP*AARP MedicareRx Preferred$86

Data effective 04/17/2017.
This is not a complete listing of plans available in your service area. For a complete listing please contact 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day/7 days a week or consult medicare.gov.

Below we compare the benefits of two AARP HMO plans sold by UnitedHealthcare. Although the benefits are similar, Plan 1 is premium-free, while Plan 3 costs about $26 per month. For the extra monthly cost, this plan has lower copayments for primary care doctor visits and hearing aids, and it offers an additional acupuncture benefit.

Benefits and limits (in-network only)AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan*AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan 3*
Monthly premium$0$26.70
Yearly deductible$0$0
Yearly out-of-pocket maximum$4,900$6,700
Doctor visit copayment
(primary care)
$5$0
Doctor visit copayment
(specialist)
$1020%
Yearly prescription drug deductible$0$400
Prescription drug copayment, initial coverage phase
30-day supply (Tiers 1/2/3/4/5)
$4 / $8 / $47 / $100 / 33%
(standard retail drugs)
25% all tiers after $400 prescription deductible (retail drugs)
Dental servicesOptional benefits available for additional premiumNot covered
Vision services$0 copayment with 1 yearly routine exam, eyewear after cataract surgery and every 2 years, lenses/frames ($70 limit); contacts ($105 limit)$0 copayment with 1 routine exam every 2 years, eyewear after cataract surgery and every 2 years, lenses/frames ($70 limit); contacts ($105 limit)
Hearing services$5 copayment for 1 yearly routine or diagnostic exam and $330–$380 copayment for up to 2 hearing aids per year (specific brand requirements apply)$0 copayment for 1 yearly routine or diagnostic exam and $0 copayment for up to 2 hearing aids per year (specific brand requirements apply)
Optional benefitsOptional dental rider with $3 monthly premium and high-option dental rider with $14 monthly premiumInformation not available
Plan details
(using ZIP code 92672)
H0543-004. Data effective 01/01/2017.H0543-153. Data effective 01/01/2017.

This is not a complete listing of plans available in your service area. For a complete listing please contact 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day/7 days a week or consult medicare.gov.

We also compared two of UnitedHealthcare’s AARP PDPs. The $86 plan is nearly four times the monthly premium of the $22 plan but has more comprehensive benefits like a zero deductible that applies to all drug tiers. You’ll want to weigh the premium and benefit costs to decide which type of plan is right for your needs.

Benefits/LimitsAARP MedicareRx Walgreens*AARP MedicareRx Preferred*
Monthly premium$22.40$86
Yearly deductible$0 for Tiers 1 and 2
$400 for Tiers 3–5
$0 all Tiers
Initial coverage limit$3,700$3,700
Extra donut hole coverageInformation not availableInformation not available
True out-of-pocket threshold$4,950$4,950
Prescription drug copayment
Tiers 1/2/3/4/5 (initial coverage phase, 30-day supply)
$0 / $3 / $27 / 32% / 25%
(preferred retail drugs)
$4 / $10 / $35 / 37% / 33%
(preferred retail drugs)
Plan detailsS0522-065. Data effective 01/01/2017.S5820-031. Data effective 01/01/2017.

This is not a complete listing of plans available in your service area. For a complete listing please contact 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day/7 days a week or consult medicare.gov.

Comparing Medicare Supplement plans

Medicare Supplement, or Medigap, plans are a great way to get help paying for costs that Original Medicare doesn’t cover, like copayments and deductibles. Some of these plans also offer extra coverage that Original Medicare doesn’t, such as foreign travel emergency care.

We found eight Supplement plans from both companies, but the list of available plans differs a bit. For example, Cigna offers Plan D and high-deductible Plan F, which we didn’t find with United. The high-deductible option gives you a lower premium but requires you to meet a yearly deductible before the benefits kick in.

However, with United, you can get two plans that Cigna doesn’t sell: Plan K and Plan L. These two plans typically have lower premiums but higher cost sharing (the amount you have to pay for services). They also have out-of-pocket maximums that limit your yearly health care spending.

You can compare Cigna’s and United’s Supplement plans below. Note: UnitedHealthcare offers Medigap plans through its partnership with AARP.

Medigap PlansCigna7UHC (AARP Medicare Supplement)8
Plan A
Plan B
Plan C
Plan DNot offered
Plan F
Plan G
Plan KNot offered
Plan LNot offered
Plan MNot offeredNot offered
Plan N
High-deductible Plan FNot offered
Plan detailsData effective 04/14/2017Data effective 07/01/2017

If you don’t know what each Supplement plan helps you pay for, we’ve got you covered. Use the chart below to see the benefits of each plan. You can also learn more by visiting our page all about Medicare Supplement plans.

Your Medigap plan options

Comparing industry ratings

Public insurance companies receive financial ratings from organizations, such as Standard & Poor’s. These ratings reflect, in the eyes of the rating organization, how stable the insurance company is and whether the company can be expected to pay claims in the future.

Both Cigna and United have positive financial ratings from Standard and Poor’s.

  • Cigna: AA-
  • UnitedHealthcare: A+ 9

Find UnitedHealthcare Medicare plans

Our final thoughts

Unless Cigna can soon sell Medicare Advantage and prescription plans, we can actually compare only the Medigap plans offered by Cigna and UnitedHealthcare. Both companies offer several Medigap (Supplement) plans with a few different options to choose from. Our recommendation is to review the benefits and decide which Medigap plan may best meet your health and budget needs. Then check to see if Cigna or UnitedHealthcare offers the plan you want. If both companies are an option, the difference in monthly premiums may help you make your choice.


Disclaimers:

* AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan 1, AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan 2, AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan 3, and AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Essential are HMOs with Medicare contracts. AARP MedicareRx Walgreens, AARP MedicareRx Saver Plus, AARP MedicareRx Preferred, and Symphonix Value Rx are PDPs with Medicare contracts. Enrollment in these plans depends on contract renewal.

You must continue to pay your Part B premium.

This information is not a complete description of benefits. Contact the plan for more information. Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply. Benefits, premiums, and/or copayments/coinsurance may change on January 1 of each year.

Sources:

1 CMS, “Cigna Sanction
2 CMS, “Monthly Enrollment by Plan – December 2016
3 CMS, “Monthly Enrollment by Plan – December 2016
4 Cigna, “Financial Strength and Credit Ratings
5 UnitedHealth Group, “Medicare Plans
6 UnitedHealth Group, “Medicare Plans
7 Cigna, “Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans
8 United Health Care Services, Inc. “AARP Medicare Supplement Plans
9 UnitedHealth Group, “Medicare Plans
10 Forbes, “The Biggest Health Insurers in the U.S.
11 CMS, “Cigna Sanction
12 Forbes, “The Biggest Health Insurers in the U.S.

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