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Aetna vs United Healthcare Insurance Company

Aetna vs. United Healthcare Insurance CompanyChoosing anĀ insurance provider is always difficult. How are they different? How are they the same? How does one provide a better deal than the other? Sometimes it’s best to see a comparison between two high-quality health insurance providers by setting them against one another.

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Both Aetna and United Healthcare are nationally-recognized insurers with hundreds of thousands of policyholders across the country. Both would be excellent choices for a high-quality, reliable policy.

However, which one is better? The only way to find out is to compare and contrast the statistics, plans, features and qualities of each. This review breaks it down for you so you don’t have to do all the research yourself. At its end, you may choose to buy an Aetna or United Healthcare policy, or you may decide that neither has what need.

Both Aetna and United Healthcare have distinct pros and cons, and ultimately, it is up to you to decide which one you or your family needs to stay healthy no matter what happens. Read this United Healthcare VS. Aetna health insurance article, then reference individual reviews for each company before making a final decision.

A health insurance policy is a large and important purchase, and you want to make sure you make the best choice that will save you money while providing all the policy features you need.

Basics & History at a Glance


* Founded in 1819 in Hartford, CT
* Initially a fire insurance company
* Branched into life insurance in mid-1800s, developed extensive life insurance policies in early 1900s
* Acquired NYL Health Plans in Prudential Health Care in the 1900s

Aetna has been one of the companies at the forefront of saving money in the health insurance world. Many health insurance providers look to the example set by Aetna to develop business plans. With millions of policy holders across the country, Aetna is one of the largest insurers in the United States.

United Healthcare

* Founded in 1977 in Minnetonka, MN
* Slow, steady growth over the decades, building through acquisitions
* Horizontal acquisition strategy, owns a variety of healthcare service providers, information solutions businesses and data mining companies specializing in health-related information

United Healthcare, meanwhile, is a much newer organization. UHC’s strength lies in its diversification strategy, though its brand isn’t nearly as well-established as Aetna’s.

Aetna vs United Healthcare – History Comparison

Both companies have seen a number of lawsuits and popular pushback related to dropping people from their policies and raising premium prices. Both also took an active interest in the shaping of the landmark healthcare reform bill of 2010, and executives from both companies played a role in consulting with the President and members of Congress on the best way forward for health care in the United States. As leaders in the field with two distinct business models, the choice between Aetna and United Healthcare is not easy.

Health Insurance Statistics


* 15.8 million policyholders
* Benefits through employers in all 50 states
* Administers Medicare and Medicaid in selected states
* 462,000 physicians and primary care doctors
* 4,716 hospitals
* AM Best rating of A

United Healthcare Group

* 18 million policyholders
* Benefits through employers in all 50 states with 4 international markets
* 470,000 physicians and primary care doctors
* 4,500 hospitals
* AM Best rating of A

Aetna vs United Healthcare – Stats Comparison

As you can see, on paper the two companies are virtually identical, with United Healthcare the slightly larger company. However, Aetna arguably has slightly greater reach, as it is accepted in 200 more hospitals around the country. Ultimately, however, the two have the same vast, national reach.

The AM Best rating of A for both companies indicates that neither is in any danger of failing to meet its obligations to policyholders. However, policyholders are advised to read the fine print of their policy very carefully, as health insurance companies may reserve the right to exclude you if you are found to have a pre-existing condition, and certain treatments or hospital visits may not be fully covered under the policy. However, neither company is in any danger of going bankrupt any time soon.

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Health Insurance Plan Details At a Glance


  • Wide range of HMO and PPO plans, dependent upon your state
  • World-class employer-based health plans used by businesses across the country
  • Many different individual health plans as well
  • Many states offer HSAs (health savings accounts) with plans
  • Most states offer preventative care plans for doctor visits, etc.
  • Specific plans vary widely from state to state

United Healthcare

  • Similar range of HMO and PPO plans
  • Emphasis on individual-based health plans, though they also offer employer-based policies
  • Many different HSA options, with more possibilities that can save you money and keep you healthy
  • Slightly more expensive overall
  • Specific plans still vary slightly from state to state

Aetna vs United Healthcare – Plans Comparison

From a pure planning front, it would appear that UHC has the edge over Aetna. Its options are more uniform from state to state, and its HSA offerings are far more comprehensive. In general, you get slightly more for your money with UHC, especially if you’re looking for an individual health plan.

Furthermore, UHC employs slightly more doctors, so you might have a better chance if you want to pick and choose a service provider that you get along with. However, Aetna operates in a few more hospitals and locations than UHC does, so if you’re concerned about not being able to move with your health plan, Aetna might be a better choice.

On the other hand, when it comes to business insurance plans, Aetna’s architecture makes it a lot easier to provide insurance to all the members of a company. Aetna offers more options for savings when companies buy insurance policies in bulk. For this reason, many companies that offer health benefits go through Aetna, even though on an individual policy level, United Healthcare might be slightly better.

Other Qualities

For what it’s worth, hospital workers and administrators much prefer working with Aetna over working with United Healthcare. According to the 2010 “National Payor Survey,” given to 225 hospital and healthcare executives every year, United Healthcare ranked the worst in payer and provider satisfaction for four years running.

Meanwhile, Aetna has been ranked the top plan on the survey for the past three years running. The survey primarily looks at how health care providers feel about the different insurance companies in terms of how easy they are to do business with.

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This article is mainly designed to give you a broad overview of the difference between Aetna and United Healthcare. It is somewhat long on generalities and short on details. If, after reading this, you are still undecided, you should look up different plans and compare quotes for a more comprehensive view. Good luck in your health insurance hunt!

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