By: Alex Enabnit | September 20, 2019

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S&P Ranking AA-


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If you’ve been searching for a Medicare plan, you’ve likely at least come across two companies: Cigna and UnitedHealthcare. 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. 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.

UnitedHeathcare vs. Cigna Medicare Comparison

CignaUnitedHealthcare
Access to provider networks1.5 million health care professionals (globally)11.3 million health care professionals (US)2
Where you can get a plan
Medicare Advantage15 States and DC3Nationwide4
Medicare Supplement49 states and DC5Nationwide6
Prescription Drug PlansNationwide7Nationwide8
Plans offered
Medicare AdvantageHMO, PPO, SNP, HMO-POS*9HMO, PPO, SNP, PFFS, HMO-POS*10
Medicare SupplementA, F, high deductible F, G, & N*11A, B, C, F, G, K, L, & N*12
Prescription Drug Plans3 plans133 plans14
Financial rankings
S&P RatingA-15AA-16

Data effective 6/5/19. *May vary by state.

Comparing access to provider networks

Cigna has a wide commercial provider network (doctors, specialists, etc.) for its non-Medicare members. But if you’re a Medicare beneficiary, the only way to access these providers is with a Cigna Medicare Advantage plan. If you buy Medigap insurance from Cigna, you can generally visit any provider who accepts Medicare—you’re not limited to Cigna’s health care network.

UnitedHealthcare gives its Advantage members access to a network that includes more than 1.3 million doctors and specialists and more than 6,000 facilities. But what’s important is whether you have access to the doctors or specialists you need in your area.

Comparing availability by location

UnitedHealthcare is a large part of the Medicare plan market, as it offers Medicare Advantage plans, Medigap plans, and prescription drug plans (PDPs) across the nation. In addition, you can get Special Needs Plans (SNPs), which are designed for people with certain conditions or living situations.

Cigna also offers Medicare Advantage, Medigap, and prescription drug plans, but its availability isn’t as widespread in the US as is that of UnitedHealthcare’s.

Comparing Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs)

Both UnitedHealthcare and Cigna offer a variety of Medicare Advantage (MA) and prescription drug plans, but in general, UnitedHealthcare has much broader availability of MA plans than Cigna does (nationwide vs. 15 states and DC, respectively).

UnitedHealthcare vs. Cigna Advantage and prescription sample plans

Not all of the plans below may be available in your area, but this list should give you an idea of the variety of plans the two companies offer.

HMO*

UnitedHeathcare plan name

  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan 1
  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan 2
  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Focus
  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Essential
  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Premier

Cigna plan name

  • Cigna-HealthSpring Preferred
  • Cigna-HealthSpring PreventiveCare
  • Cigna-HealthSpring Alliance

PPO*

UnitedHeathcare plan name

  • Not available in sampled area

Cigna plan name

  • Cigna-HealthSpring Preferred

PDP*

UnitedHeathcare plan name

  • AARP MedicareRx Walgreens
  • AARP MedicareRx Saver Plus
  • AARP MedicareRx Preferred

Cigna plan name

  • Cigna-HealthSpring Rx Secure-Essential (PDP)
  • Cigna-HealthSpring Rx Secure-Extra (PDP)
  • Cigna-HealthSpring Rx Secure (PDP)

*Data effective 6/5/19.

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 medical care. This chart shows which Medigap plans each company offers (just keep in mind, availability depends on location).

Medigap PlanCignaUHC (AARP Medicare Supplement)
Plan AYesYes
Plan BNoYes
Plan CNoYes
Plan DNoNo
Plan FYesYes
Plan GYesYes
Plan KNoYes
Plan LNoYes
Plan MNoNo
Plan NYesYes
High-deductible Plan FYesNo

Data effective 6/5/19

We found eight Medicare Supplement plans from UnitedHealthcare and five from Cigna, but the list of available plans may differ based on your location. Some offerings overlap between the two companies, such as A, F, G, and N. Only Cigna offers high-deductible Plan F, which generally has a lower premium but requires you to meet a yearly deductible before the benefits kick in. However, with United, you can get four plans that Cigna doesn’t sell: Plan B, C, K, and L.

Our recommendation is to review the benefits of each plan type 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.

If you don’t know what each Supplement plan helps you pay for, see our page about Medicare Supplement plans.

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 how easily the company can be expected to pay claims in the future.

Both Cigna and Unitedhealthcare have positive financial ratings from Standard and Poor’s, with UnitedHealthcare coming in a full grade higher than Cigna.

  • Cigna: A-17
  • UnitedHealthcare: AA-18

For context, the more “A’s,” the better, with up to AAA possible. The +/- indicates the position within the letter grade.

Our final thoughts

UnitedHealthcare has a variety of Medicare Advantage plans to choose from. Cigna also has many Medicare Advantage plans to choose from, but they are only available in 30% of the states UnitedHealthcare sells MA plans in. United also scores better financially according to S&P, meaning they are in better standing financially than Cigna (although both are in a good place, overall).

Both companies have three prescription drug plans to choose from nationwide. Which PDP is best for you depends mostly on the medications you take and how each plan covers (or doesn’t cover) them. If you want to read more on this, see how to compare Part D plans.

Both companies offer several Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plans, although UnitedHealthcare may have more options to choose from, depending on your location. 

Are you ready to sign up for a Medicare Advantage, Prescription Drug, or Medigap plan? Call an agent and they can help.

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Sources

1. Cigna, “A Global Approach
2. UnitedHealth Group, “Facts Q1: 2019
3. Cigna, “Medicare Advantage Plans
4. UnitedHealthCare, “Medicare Plans
5. Cigna, “State Disclosures, Exclusions, Limitations & Reductions
6. UnitedHealthCare, “Medicare Plans
7. Cigna, “Cigna-HealthSpring Rx (PDP) Summary of Benefits
8. UnitedHealthCare, “Medicare Plans
9. Cigna, “Medicare Advantage Plans
10. UnitedHealthCare, “Medicare Plans
11. Cigna, “Compare Medicare Supplement Plans
12. AARP UnitedHealthCare, “Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans
13. Cigna, “Cigna-HealthSpring Rx (PDP) Summary of Benefits
14. UnitedHealthCare, “Medicare Plans
15.S&P Global, “S&P Downgrades Cigna, Subsidiaries
16. S&P Global, “Insurance Ratings Actions: Fitch Affirms Unitedhealth, AIG
17. S&P Global, “S&P Downgrades Cigna, Subsidiaries
18. S&P Global, “Insurance Ratings Actions: Fitch Affirms Unitedhealth, AIG

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