When you’re planning for retirement, you may not think that health insurance is an issue since Medicare exists. However, Medicare is generally only for those who are 65 and older, or those who meet certain other eligibility criteria. If you retire before you’re eligible for Medicare, you’ll have to find an alternative source of coverage.
Maintaining health insurance when you retire is essential for your financial security since your health needs increase as you age. Without insurance, you could be on the hook for thousands in medical bills. For example, the average cost per hospital stay is $11,700, while treatment for cancer can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.1
To help you find the right coverage for you during retirement, we examined 18 providers of health insurance geared toward seniors. We evaluated these providers based on their coverage options, costs, and provider networks. Here are our choices for the best insurers
The 5 Best Health Insurance for Retirees in 2021
- Best Overall: UnitedHealthcare
- Best for Supplementing Medicare: Humana
- Best for Low-Income Seniors: Medicaid
- Best Short-Term Coverage: Golden Rule Insurance Company
- Best for Under 65: Cigna
Best Overall: UnitedHealthcare
Our choice for the best overall insurance provider for retirees is UnitedHealthcare because of its comprehensive coverage options that go above and beyond the limits of Medicare. With UnitedHealthcare, you can get worldwide coverage and vision, dental, and chiropractic care.
Best for Supplementing Medicare: Humana
If you have coverage through Medicare, our choice for the best supplemental policy is Humana. Humana’s Medicare Supplement Plans—also known as Medigap—help pay for your remaining health care costs, and plans may also cover extra services like foreign travel or your nursing care coinsurance.
Best for Low-Income Seniors: Medicaid
If you are a low-income senior, the best way to get health insurance is through Medicaid, a federal insurance program. With Medicaid, you can get free or low-cost coverage.
Best Short-Term Coverage: Golden Rule Insurance Company
The top pick for short-term insurance for retirees is the Golden Rule Insurance Company. Offering low monthly premiums, the Golden Rule Insurance Company is ideal for people who retire early and need to bridge the gap until they’re eligible for Medicare.
Best for Under 65: Cigna
If you plan on purchasing private insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, Cigna is our top choice. You can get comprehensive coverage, even if you have pre-existing conditions, and Cigna offers perks like $0 virtual care 24/7 access to nurses and doctors.
How Do I Get Health Insurance When I Retire?
When you retire, you have multiple options for health insurance:
Medicare: When you turn 65, you are eligible for Medicare, an insurance program operated by the federal government.11
COBRA: When you leave your job, you have the option of extending your employer-offered health benefits through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). With COBRA, you can continue your coverage for 18 to 36 months.12
Health Insurance Marketplace: You can purchase private insurance under the Affordable Care Act on healthcare.gov.
Short-term coverage: Private insurance companies often sell short-term coverage, which is a form of temporary insurance you can use to bridge the gap until other coverage goes into effect.
Do I Need Health Insurance If I Have Medicare?
While Medicare is an excellent option for retirees, you won’t qualify for it until you turn 65. If you retire before that date, you’re responsible for getting your own coverage.
However, even eligible Medicare beneficiaries may need additional insurance.
Medicare covers a large portion of your health expenses, but it doesn’t pay for all of your necessary medical services. Original Medicare—which is made up of Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance)—doesn’t cover:13
Routine foot care
If you want insurance that covers the above services, you’ll need additional coverage, such as a Medicare Advantage Plan.
What Does Health Insurance for Retirees Cost?
When it comes to health insurance as a retiree, your costs depend on what insurance options you choose and your age.
Original Medicare: There are two parts to Original Medicare:
Part A: You won’t pay a premium for Medicare Part A as long as you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes for a certain amount of time. If you aren’t eligible for premium-free Part A, you can purchase Part A coverage. It costs $252 to $458 per month as of 2020.14
Part B: All beneficiaries have to pay a premium for Part B coverage. The standard Part B monthly premium is $144.60 per month, but it can increase based on your income.15
Medicare Advantage Plans: If you opt for a Medicare Advantage Plan, you may have to pay a monthly premium in addition to your Part B premium. The average monthly premium for a Medicare Advantage Plan is $25.16
Health Insurance Marketplace Plans: If you purchase insurance through healthcare.gov, your monthly premium cost is dependent on what tier you choose, the provider network, your selected deductible, and whether you are eligible for a subsidy. The average marketplace benchmark premium is $478 per month.17
COBRA: With COBRA, you can continue your employer-offered insurance policy, but you’re responsible for paying the entire premium yourself. The average premium for single coverage is $599 per month, or $7,188 per year.18
Short-term coverage: Short-term coverage tends to be inexpensive, costing just $116 per month, on average.19
How We Chose the Best Health Insurance for Retirees
To identify the best health insurance companies for retirees beyond Medicare, we looked at 18 providers of Medicare Advantage Plans, Medigap policies, private insurance, and short-term coverage. We evaluated each company based on their coverage options, costs, benefits, and financial stability for seniors to select the top five companies.