In this head-to-head, we compare two of the largest insurance companies that offer private plans: Aetna and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS). The details are broken down by Medicare Advantage (Part C), Medicare Supplement (Medigap), and Part D prescription drug plans.
Aetna vs. Anthem: Company comparison
|Medicare membership||2.2 million1||1.9 million2|
|Medicare Advantage||45 states plus Washington DC3||14 states4, 5, 6|
|Medicare Supplement||49 states7||14 states8,9,10|
|Prescription Drug plans||Nationwide11||14 states12,13,14|
|Medicare Advantage||HMO, PPO, HMO-POS, SNP15*||HMO, PPO, SNP16*|
|Medicare Supplement||A, B, C, F, high deductible F, G, & N17*||A, F, G, N18*|
|Prescription Drug plans||3 plans||2 plans|
Data effective 6/6/2019.
*Availability varies by state. May not include all plans.
Aetna vs. Anthem: Comparing access to provider networks
Medicare Advantage plans sometimes require you to visit doctors, clinics, and other providers that participate with the plan’s network. For this reason, a plan’s provider network may help you make a decision about what’s right for you.
Aetna has approximately 1.2 million providers worldwide including over 700,000 primary care doctors and specialists.21 Anthem doesn’t have this same kind of information on its website.
Aetna vs. Anthem: Comparing availability
Whether or not you can apply for a plan from one of these companies depends on the type of coverage you want and where you live. Comparing the two, Aetna definitely has a wider plan availability than Anthem, as you can see in the table above.
With Aetna, you can enroll in a prescription plan in any state, but Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans are more limited. If you want a Medicare Advantage plan, you need to reside in one of the 45 states or DC where Aetna offers this coverage. Aetna’s Medicare Supplement plans are sold in 49 states.
Anthem offers plans in even fewer states than Aetna—just 14. These states include the following:22
- New Hampshire
- New York
Georgia plans are offered through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, and New York plans are offered through Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Anthem is part of the larger insurance corporation called Blue Cross Blue Shield, which means you may be able to find a similar plan in states where Anthem doesn’t sell them. Find out which Blue Cross Blue Shield company operates in your state.
Aetna vs. Anthem: Comparing the plans offered
When we searched in Atlanta, Georgia, 30310, we found HMO and PPO choices from each company.
|Plan type||Aetna||Anthem BCBS23|
|HMO plans||Aetna Medicare Select|
Aetna Medicare Dual Preferred (HMO-SNP)
|Anthem MediBlue Plus|
Anthem MediBlue Dual Advantage (HMO-SNP)
Anthem MediBlue Essential
|PPO plans||Aetna Medicare Essential|
|Anthem MediBlue Access |
Anthem MediBlue Access Basic
|PDPs||Aetna Medicare Rx Saver|
Aetna Medicare Rx Select
Aetna Medicare Rx Value Plus
|Anthem Blue MedicareRx Standard|
Anthem Blue MedicareRx Plus
HMO plans typically require you to see doctors in the plan’s network, choose a primary care doctor, and get a referral to see a specialist. They also tend to cost less than PPO and PFFS plans. For more details, visit our HMO, PPO, and PFFS page.
Aetna offers more Medicare Supplement plans than Anthem, but availability varies by location.
|High deductible F||Yes||No|
Data effective 6/6/2019.
Remember, Medicare Supplement plan benefits are standardized nationwide.
Part D prescription drug plans
When comparing stand-alone Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs) for these insurers in Atlanta, Georgia, we found three Aetna options and two Anthem options.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, out of the 10 most popular Part D plans in 2018, the Aetna Medicare Rx Select plan had the lowest average monthly premium, while the Aetna Medicare Rx Saver came in fourth lowest.24
None of Anthem’s plans made it onto Kaiser’s list.
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Aetna vs. Anthem: Comparing industry rankings
Both companies get positive reviews from financial rankings companies, although Anthem’s rating is a little bit higher (A) than Aetna’s (BBB).25, 26 These rankings represent Standard & Poor’s judgment of whether the companies will be able to meet their financial obligations in the future. In short, you can expect both Aetna and Anthem to be able to pay their bills.
Aetna is currently the third-largest health care insurer in the United States.27 The company’s enormous size is one way it can offer plenty of in-network provider options. In comparison, Anthem is even larger than Aetna, coming in as the second-largest health insurance company in the nation.28 According to the company, one in eight Americans get their coverage through Anthem’s affiliated plans.29
When it comes to Medicare beneficiaries specifically, however, Aetna serves more people than Anthem. 2.2 million people have Aetna Medicare plans, while 1.9 million have Anthem plans.30,31
Final thoughts: Aetna and Anthem may offer plans for you.
Anthem has fewer options and less availability than Aetna but serves nearly as many Medicare recipients.
Although the two companies have differences, both Aetna and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield are companies that offer several plan choices in many parts of the United States. However, Aetna offers plans in more areas, so if you don’t live in an area where Anthem plans are available, you may want to consider signing up for Aetna.
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1. Aetna, “Form 10-Q”
2. Anthem, “Form 10-K”
3. CVS Health, “Medicare Advantage Expansion”
4. Anthem, “Medicare Advantage Plans”
5. Anthem, “Medicare Part D”
6. Anthem, “Medicare Supplement Plans”
7. CVS Health, “Medicare Advantage Expansion”
8. Anthem, “Medicare Advantage Plans”
9. Anthem, “Medicare Part D”
10. Anthem, “Medicare Supplement Plans”
11. CVS Health, “Medicare Advantage Expansion”
12. Anthem, “Medicare Advantage Plans”
13. Anthem, “Medicare Part D”
14. Anthem, “Medicare Supplement Plans”
15. Aetna, “Medicare Advantage Plans”
16. Anthem, “Medicare Advantage Plans”
17. Aetna, “Coverage Outline”
18. Anthem, “Medicare Supplement Plans Offered”
19. Standard and Poor’s, “Aetna Inc.”
20. Standard and Poor’s, “Anthem, Inc.”
21. Aetna, “Aetna Facts”
22. Anthem, “Medicare Advantage Plans: Part C”
23. Anthem, “Medicare Plans”
24. Kaiser Family Foundation, “10 Things to Know About Medicare Part D Coverage and Costs in 2019”
25. Standard and Poor’s, “Aetna Inc.”
26. Standard and Poor’s, “Anthem, Inc.”
27. Becker’s Hospital Review, “America’s Largest Health Insurers in 2018”
28. Becker’s Hospital Review, “America’s Largest Health Insurers in 2018”
29. Anthem, “About Anthem, Inc.”
30. Aetna, “Form 10-Q”
31. Anthem, “Form 10-K”
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