worst medicare plans

Navigating the Pitfalls

Choosing a Medicare plan can be an overwhelming process, with a myriad of options available. Each plan comes with its set of benefits and drawbacks and while many offer comprehensive coverage and peace of mind, others may leave you with unexpected costs and limitations. Therefore, it is critical to identify and avoid the worst Medicare plans that could lead to unwelcome surprises down the road. This article will guide you through these plans, helping you understand which to avoid and why.

Medicare Plans to Avoid

Medicare Advantage Plans with Hidden Costs

Medicare Advantage Plans, also known as Part C, are an alternative to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and are offered by private insurance companies. While they often provide additional benefits such as dental and vision coverage, some come with hidden costs that can catch beneficiaries off guard. These plans may feature low premiums, but compensate with high co-pays or coinsurance rates for specialist visits, hospital stays and other services. Moreover, out-of-pocket maximums on these plans can be quite high, leaving enrollees vulnerable in case of severe health issues.

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Plans with Restrictive Networks and Referral Requirements

Some Medicare Advantage Plans have a restrictive network of providers, which can limit your choices and make accessing care inconvenient, especially if your preferred doctors or hospitals are not in the network. Additionally, plans that require referrals for specialist visits can pose an unnecessary barrier to care. These requirements may lead to delays in receiving necessary treatments and can ultimately impact the quality of care received.

Plans with Low Star Ratings

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rate Medicare plans each year based on a five-star rating system. These ratings reflect the plan's quality of care and customer service. Plans with low star ratings (below three stars) are often indicative of sub-par performance in several areas such as preventative care, chronic condition management and member satisfaction. It is generally advisable to avoid such plans and opt for those with higher ratings, suggesting better quality and reliability.

Prescription Drug Plans with Limited Formularies

When selecting a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, it’s essential to check the formulary or list of covered medications. Some plans have a limited formulary that may not include all the drugs you currently take or may require. If your medication is not on the plan's formulary, or is placed in a higher tier, you could face substantial out-of-pocket costs.

High Deductible Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plans

Medigap plans are designed to cover gaps in Original Medicare, but the plans with the highest deductibles can also present substantial upfront costs before coverage kicks in. A high deductible Medigap plan might be enticing due to its lower premiums, but consider whether you can afford the out-of-pocket costs before the benefits become available.

Overpriced Medicare Advantage Plans

While premium costs are not the only factor to consider, some Medicare Advantage Plans are simply overpriced compared to the coverage they provide. When the premiums are disproportionately high relative to the benefits and costs like deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance, such a plan may not be good value for money.

Companies Providing Sub-Par Medicare Plans

Several large companies offer a variety of Medicare plans. While many of their offerings have robust benefits, some plans may not be the best fit due to the aforementioned issues. Here are some things to watch out for when considering signing up for a plan from the following providers.


UnitedHealthCare stands as one of the leading Medicare Advantage plan providers. Although many of their plans enjoy positive feedback, there have been reports of higher out-of-pocket maximums compared to certain competitors. It is essential to assess the overall yearly cost, considering not only the monthly premium but also potential additional expenses.


Humana is widely recognized as a provider of Medicare plans. However, there have been cases where customers encountered unforeseen cost escalations, especially concerning prescription drugs. It is advisable to review the plan's drug coverage annually during the Annual Election Period, as formularies may change.


Cigna, a worldwide health service company, provides Medicare plans in specific regions. Some users have noted an issue where the benefits of their plans are highly regional, posing challenges for individuals who travel frequently or reside in multiple locations annually. It is crucial to verify the service area and explore options for out-of-network or out-of-area care.


Aetna provides a range of Medicare plans. Certain Aetna plans come with restricted networks, making it imperative for beneficiaries to verify the coverage of their preferred providers. It is also important to carefully examine the drug formulary to ensure that medications are covered at a reasonable cost.

What to Look for in a Good Medicare Plan

When searching for a good Medicare plan, here are some features to pay close attention to:

  • Comprehensive coverage: A plan with broad coverage for services like hospital care, doctor visits, preventive services and medications is ideal.
  • Network flexibility: A plan with a sizable network of providers, and less stringent referral requirements, provides better access to various healthcare services without having to navigate as many bureaucratic hurdles.
  • Good customer service: Customer service is crucial in dealing with claims, understanding benefits and getting assistance when you need it. Plans with high customer satisfaction ratings tend to provide better member support.
  • Low out-of-pocket costs: Consider plans with reasonable premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.

Making Informed Choices

Choosing the right Medicare plan requires careful consideration of your healthcare needs, financial situation and the potential for future health events. Remember to review each plan's coverage and enlist professional guidance if needed, ensuring you make an informed decision tailored to your unique health circumstances.

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