Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage 2024 Review - NerdWallet (2024)

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Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage 2024 Review - NerdWallet (1)

Blue Cross Blue Shield

3.93

CMS Star Rating

Blue Cross Blue Shield plans are widely available and affordable, but some companies earn higher marks than others on member satisfaction.

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States available

48 states and Puerto Rico

Members in high-rated plans

Medium (50% to 89%)

Member experience

3.41 (Average)

States available

48 states and Puerto Rico

Members in high-rated plans

Medium (50% to 89%)

Member experience

3.41 (Average)

Pros

  • BCBS companies offer plans in 48 states and Puerto Rico.
  • $0-premium BCBS plans are available in 44 states and Puerto Rico.
  • BCBS plans offer extra benefits like chronic condition management and preloaded debit cards for over-the-counter items.

Cons

  • Ratings and member satisfaction vary among BCBS companies, and some score lower than others. You may not have access to a highly rated BCBS company.
  • BCBS companies offer special needs plans in only half of U.S. states.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage plans are provided by a collective of 33 independent companies, and together they are the third-largest provider of Medicare Advantage.

Although BCBS companies are all licensed by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, they're locally owned and operated and may vary in terms of coverage, benefits and quality of plans. Two-thirds of BCBS customers are in a Medicare Advantage contract rated 4 or higher (out of 5) on the Medicare star rating scale.

Here’s what you should know about Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage pros and cons

Blue Cross Blue Shield’s offerings have advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

Wide network: With BCBS companies providing Medicare Advantage plans in 48 states and Puerto Rico, there’s a good chance you have access to a plan from a BCBS insurer.

Low-cost plans: BCBS companies offer plans with $0 premiums in 44 states and Puerto Rico.

Concierge services: Some BCBS plans offer a dedicated concierge who can help people understand the best way to use their benefits, as well as access to chronic condition management.

Money for extras: Some plans offer $25 to $100 per quarter on a preloaded debit card that members can use for healthy food or certain over-the-counter items, such as vitamins.

Cons

Company strength varies: While some BCBS companies land above the industry average in some major Medicare markets in terms of member satisfaction, others don't score as many points in J.D. Power’s latest Medicare Advantage study. Depending on your location, you may not have access to a higher-rated Blue Cross Blue Shield company.

Limited special needs plans: BCBS companies offer SNPs in only half of U.S. states.

» MORE: Best Medicare Advantage plans

Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare star ratings

Average star rating, weighted by enrollment: 3.93

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, maintains its own database of star ratings on every Medicare Advantage and separate Medicare Part D plan, ranging from best (5 stars) to worst (1 star). The agency bases these ratings on plans’ quality of care and measurements of customer satisfaction, and ratings may change from year to year.

Weighted by enrollment, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s 2024 Medicare Advantage plans get an average rating of 3.93.

For comparison, the average star rating for plans from all providers in 2024 is 4.04.

Of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s rated contracts, 45% are rated 4 stars and up. Of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Medicare Advantage members who are in rated contracts, 66% were in contracts with 4 stars or more as of March 2024.

What does Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage cost?

Medicare Advantage plan costs will depend on your plan, your geographic location and your health needs.

Premiums

One of the costs to consider is the plan’s premium. Blue Cross Blue Shield offers $0-premium Medicare Advantage plans in 44 states and Puerto Rico.

Even as a Medicare Advantage user, you’ll still be responsible for paying your Medicare Part B premium, which is at least $174.70 per month in 2024. (Most people pay this standard amount, but if your income is above a certain threshold, you’ll pay more.)

Copays, coinsurance and deductibles

Requirements for copays, coinsurance and deductibles vary depending on your plan, location and the services you use. Other out-of-pocket costs to consider include:

  • Whether the plan covers any part of your monthly Medicare Part B premium.

  • The plan’s deductibles.

  • Copayments and/or coinsurance for each visit or service. For instance, there may be a $10 copay for seeing your primary doctor and a $45 copay for seeing a specialist.

  • The plan’s in-network and out-of-network out-of-pocket maximums.

  • Whether your medical providers are in-network or out-of-network, or how often you may go out of network for care.

  • Whether you require extra benefits, and if the plan charges for them.

Here are examples of BCBS Medicare Advantage costs for the most popular plans in a mid-range city:

BCBS Medicare Advantage plan

Pricing

Blue KC Essential (PPO)

Monthly premium: $0.

Out-of-pocket max: $3,425.

Copays:

  • Primary care: $0.

  • Specialist: $30.

  • Tier 1 prescription drugs: $0.

Blue KC Secure (HMO)

Monthly premium: $0.

Out-of-pocket max: $3,650.

Copays:

  • Primary care: $0.

  • Specialist: $30.

  • Tier 1 prescription drugs: $0.

Blue KC Simply Blue (PPO)

Monthly premium: $0.

Out-of-pocket max: $4,800.

Copays:

  • Primary care: $0.

  • Specialist: $35.

  • Tier 1 prescription drugs: $0.

Selected plans are available in ZIP code 66013.

To get a sense of costs, use Medicare's plan finding tool to compare information among available plans in your area. You can select by insurance carrier to see only Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, or compare across carriers.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage plan types

Blue Cross Blue Shield offers several kinds of Medicare Advantage plans, and they vary in terms of structure, costs and benefits. Availability of specific plan types varies by location.

Blue Cross Blue Shield offers Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans, or MAPDs, as well as stand-alone prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans without drug coverage.

Plan offerings include the following types:

HMO plans

A health maintenance organization (HMO) generally requires that you use a specific network of doctors and hospitals. You may need a referral from your primary doctor in order to see a specialist, and out-of-network benefits are usually very limited.

HMO-POS plans

HMO point of service (POS) plans are HMO plans that allow members to get some out-of-network services, but they’ll pay more for those services.

PPO plans

Preferred provider organization (PPO) plans provide the most freedom, allowing you to see any provider that accepts the insurance. You may not need to choose a primary doctor, and you don’t need referrals to see specialists. You can seek out-of-network care, although it may cost more than seeing an in-network doctor.

PFFS plans

Blue Cross Blue Shield’s private fee-for-service (PFFS) plans allow you to see any Medicare-approved provider who accepts your Blue Cross Blue Shield plan. You won’t have to pick a primary doctor, and you won’t need a referral to see a specialist.

SNPs

Special needs plans (SNPs) restrict membership to people with certain diseases or characteristics. Hence, the benefits, network and drug formularies are tailored to the needs of those members. Blue Cross Blue Shield offers three types of SNPs:

  • Chronic Condition SNP: Designed to meet the needs of members living with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes, congestive heart failure and cardiovascular disease.

  • Dual-Eligible SNP: For people who are entitled to Medicare and who also qualify for assistance from a state Medicaid program.

  • Institutional SNP: For people living in a BCBS network nursing home or assisted living community, or another plan-approved spot.

Available BCBS Part D prescription drug plans

While many of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Medicare Advantage plans include Part D drug coverage, the company also sells stand-alone Part D prescription drug plans, also known as PDPs. These plans, which are meant to accompany Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, don't provide medical coverage.

Almost all states offering a stand-alone prescription drug plan have both a basic and an enhanced option. For instance, if you live in Detroit, Michigan, you have the option of the following two PDPs from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan:

  • Prescription Blue Select.

  • Prescription Blue Premium.

Here’s an example of how they compare:

Plan feature

Prescription Blue Select

Prescription Blue Premium

Monthly premium

$96.

$117.40.

Annual deductible

$545 for Tier 2-5 drugs. No deductible for Tier 1 drugs.

None.

Drug copay, preferred generic*

$0.

$1.

Drug copay, generic*

$11.

$5.

Drug copay, preferred brand*

$42.

$40.

*For a one-month supply of a covered Part D prescription drug at a preferred retail pharmacy after meeting any applicable deductible.

These plans differ by premium, by the drugs they cover, by the costs associated with each tier of drugs, and by the pharmacies that are in their network of preferred retailers. To find the best drug plan for you, consider plans that offer the lowest costs for your regular prescriptions and preferred pharmacies.

Third-party ratings

There are a few companies that weigh in on health plans or on the strength of the company in question, and we’ve included three here:

AM Best

Financial Strength Rating: A+ (Superior) to B++ (Good)

AM Best is a credit rating agency that specializes in the insurance industry. Because Blue Cross Blue Shield is a collection of companies, AM Best has rated some — but not all — Blue Cross firms.

As of July 7, 2023, AM Best affirmed the following ratings for Blue Cross Blue Shield companies:

AM Best BCBS ratings

Company

Financial Strength Rating

Anthem Health Group (and subsidiaries)

A (Excellent)**.

BCBSM Inc.

A- (Excellent).

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, A Mutual Insurance Company

A (Excellent).

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Mutual Insurance Co.

A (Excellent).

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Inc.

A+ (Superior)*.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Inc.

A (Excellent).

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska Inc.

A- (Excellent).

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont

B++ (Good)***.

Blue Cross of California

A (Excellent).

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of South Carolina

A+ (Superior).

Highmark West Virginia Inc.

A (Excellent).

Highmark Inc.

A (Excellent).

Wellmark Inc.

A (Excellent).

Wellmark of South Dakota Inc.

A (Excellent).

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon

A (Excellent).

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah

A (Excellent).

Regence BlueShield

A (Excellent).

Regence BlueShield of Idaho Inc.

A- (Excellent).

Health Care Service Corp. (and subsidiaries)

A (Excellent).

California Physicians' Service (Blue Shield of CA)

A (Excellent).

Triple-S Salud Inc.

A- (Excellent).

USAble Mutual Insurance Company

A (Excellent).

*An A+ rating in this category indicates that AM Best believes the company has a superior ability to meet its ongoing insurance obligations.

**An A or A- rating in this category indicates that AM Best believes the company has an excellent ability to meet its ongoing insurance obligations.

***A B++ rating in this category indicates that AM Best believes the company has a good ability to meet its ongoing insurance obligations.

J.D. Power

In its 2023 U.S. Medicare Advantage Study — the ninth it's done so far — J.D. Power measured member satisfaction with Medicare Advantage plans based on eight factors ranging from level of trust to how well a provider resolves problems or complaints. The study was fielded in the five biggest Medicare markets, and here’s how Blue Cross Blue Shield companies ranked out of all major providers:

  • California: Blue Shield of California is 5th out of 7, Elevance Health (formerly Anthem) is 6th out of 7.

  • Florida: Elevance Health is 4th out of 6, Florida Blue is 5th out of 6.

  • New York: Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is 1st out of 8, Elevance Health is 5th out of 8.

  • Pennsylvania: Highmark is 2nd out of 7, Independence Blue Cross is 7th out of 7.

  • Texas: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas is 1st out of 6.

NCQA

Score range: 2.5 to 4.0 out of 5

The National Committee for Quality Assurance, or NCQA, rates health insurance plans on a 5-point scale (with 5 being best) based on clinical quality, member satisfaction and results from the NCQA accreditation survey. The ratings highlight the results of care and what patients say about their care.

In its September 2023 ratings of Blue-branded plans, the NCQA awarded scores between 2.5 and 4.0.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage service area

Blue Cross Blue Shield offers Medicare Advantage plans in 48 states and Puerto Rico, and Medicare prescription drug plans in 41 states.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield family of companies includes Elevance Health (formerly Anthem), the fourth-largest Medicare Advantage provider in the country among for-profit health plans. Elevance captured 6% of national market share for Medicare Advantage in 2024, according to a report from health care analytics firm The Chartis Group. Nonprofit Blue companies lost 0.1% of market share, accounting for 10.1% of the national market in 2024.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield began as two companies — Blue Cross and Blue Shield — that offered affordable health care solutions in the early 1900s and started to come together in the 1940s. It was made official in 1982 when they formed the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which now includes 33 independent and locally operated companies across the country. Nationwide, it provides health care coverage to 115 million members in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has two main offices, in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

See Blue Cross Blue Shield companies available around the country.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

  • Premera Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alaska.

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.

  • Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

  • Anthem Blue Cross (California).

  • Blue Shield of California.

  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Colorado.

  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Connecticut.

  • Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware.

  • CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (Washington, D.C.).

  • Florida Blue.

  • BlueCross BlueShield of Puerto Rico.

  • Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Hawaii.

  • Blue Cross of Idaho.

  • Regence BlueShield of Idaho.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Indiana.

  • Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Iowa).

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.

  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Kentucky.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.

  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Maine.

  • CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (Maryland).

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

  • Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi.

  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Missouri.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Missouri).

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska.

  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Nevada.

  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield New Hampshire.

  • Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico.

  • Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield (New York).

  • Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York.

  • Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York.

  • Excellus BlueCross BlueShield (New York).

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Ohio.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma.

  • Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon.

  • Capital BlueCross (Pennsylvania).

  • Highmark Blue Shield (Pennsylvania).

  • Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield (Pennsylvania).

  • Independence Blue Cross (Pennsylvania).

  • Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina.

  • Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield (South Dakota).

  • BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.

  • Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont.

  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Virginia.

  • CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (Virginia).

  • Premera Blue Cross (Washington).

  • Regence BlueShield (Washington).

  • Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia.

  • Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Wisconsin.

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming.

» MORE: Read our review of Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Supplement Insurance

BCBS customer service

Blue Cross Blue Shield members can contact their plan’s customer service in the following ways:

  • Call the toll-free number on the back of their member ID card.

  • Find their BCBS company for specific contact information.

Compare Medicare Advantage providers

Get more information below about some of the major Medicare Advantage providers. These insurers offer plans in most states. The plans you can choose from will depend on your ZIP code and county.

  • AARP Medicare Advantage plans.

  • Aetna Medicare Advantage plans.

  • Anthem Medicare Advantage plans.

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage plans.

  • Cigna Medicare Advantage plans.

  • Humana Medicare Advantage plans.

  • Kaiser Permanente Medicare Advantage plans.

  • UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans.

  • Wellcare Medicare Advantage plans.

Find the right Medicare Advantage plan

It’s important to do your research before selecting a Medicare Advantage plan for yourself. Here are some questions to consider asking:

  • What are the plan’s costs? Do you understand what the plan’s premium, deductibles, copays and/or coinsurance will be? Can you afford them?

  • Is your doctor in-network? If you have a preferred medical provider or providers, make sure they participate in the plan’s network.

  • Are your prescriptions covered? If you’re on medication, it’s crucial to understand how the plan covers it. What tier are your prescription drugs on, and are there any coverage rules that apply to them?

  • Is there dental coverage? Does the plan offer routine coverage for vision, dental and hearing needs?

  • Are there extras? Does the plan offer any extra benefits, such as fitness memberships, transportation benefits or meal delivery?

If you have additional questions about Medicare, visitMedicare.gov or call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227, TTY 877-486-2048).

Medicare Advantage review methodology

The Medicare Advantage marketplace is concentrated among just a handful of companies; in many places, one insurer serves more than half of the market. NerdWallet reviewed 26 Medicare Advantage brands, with some insurers having more than one brand under their umbrella. (For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield includes the brands Anthem and Highmark.) At the national level, these reviews include nine of the 10 largest brands by enrollment. At the state level, our research includes at least one major insurer in 47 of the 49 states that offer Medicare Advantage plans, and includes the top two insurers in 35 of those states. (Alaska doesn't offer Medicare Advantage plans.) We also look at online search volume to identify regional and other notable players in the space.

NerdWallet’s Medicare Advantage reviews are based on ratings data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as well as pricing, plan availability by state, plan types available, consumer experience, extra benefits offered and more. These reviews are a guide, but we encourage you to shop around and compare several plans to find the best coverage and rate for you. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for any reviews. Read our editorial guidelines for additional information.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage 2024 Review - NerdWallet (2024)
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