California Medicare Options  -  Guide to United Health AARP Medicare Advantage Plans

Guide and Review of California United Advantage plans

Unlocking the Benefits: A Comprehensive Guide to United Advantage Plans in California

Behind Kaiser, United Health is definitely the biggest player in the California Medicare Advantage market.  By a long shot!

California Advantage plans enrollment by carrier with United AARP


For good reason.  

They have a powerful ally in AAPR as the marketing arm for their advantage plans.

Talk about bringing a gun to a knife fight!  AARP is a good company to have in the battle for California's senior market.

Membership is not required, but nonetheless, many seniors will hear about advantage plans from AARP, and more importantly, there's a degree of trust there.

The real story though is about their provider networks.  UCLA and Cedars?  That's ridiculously impressive for an HMO! do we compare and review United's Advantage plan offerings?

First, our credentials with 25+ years of experience in California's senior market.


Now that's out of the way, let's zero in on these topics:

  • A quick intro to United Health medicare advantage plans
  • Are people happy with United Health Advantage plans
  • Why is United Health so popular in California
  • The different types of United Health plans
  • How to quote United Health Advantage plans
  • How to enroll in United Health Advantage plans


Let's get started!

A quick intro to United Health medicare advantage plans

United is one of the big 3 nationwide health insurance carriers so they're no spring chicken even in California health markets.

Their strategy has been different both in California and how they approached the Advantage market.

First, they're a dominant employer health plan carrier.  They have pulled away from the California Covered Ca market for individual families but focused more on the Medicare market.

More importantly, they earned the highly coveted carrier of choice for AARP.

Almost every senior knows AARP but by choosing United as their carrier for Medicare supplements, advantage plans, and Part D, they partially won the market!

AARP is just that big, powerful, and persuasive.  Hats off to them...they do a lot of good work for seniors so this effect is well-earned.

It's a pretty good marriage since United has the required nationwide expertise and network prowess (only BCBS or Aetna can rival this) to deliver to millions of AARP members.

United has 7.9 million ADVANTAGE subscribers in 2022 nationwide.  Only a few carriers could pull that off well.


Medicare advantage enrollment growth united health AARP


In California, it was just under 500,000 end of 2020.

Outside of Kaiser, this is by far the biggest carrier for Advantage plans.

So...what do all those members think about their coverage?

Are people happy with United Health Advantage plans

Luckily, having friends in high places doesn't protect a carrier in the Advantage market.

Medicare has a built-in review system called the Star Ranking.  Sorta like a Yelp review for Advantage plans and Part D (medication plans).

It's adjusted each year, and we can use it to compare not only carriers (United versus SCAN as an example) but also different plans offered by the same carrier!

It's a 1-5 Star system with 5 star being the best (and very coveted for many reasons). does United (AARP) are in California?

United Health (AARP) had an average 4.2 rating in 2023 for California

This is pretty solid with 5 being at the top and 4 being the average nationwide.

Just a head's up...what matters is ranking in YOUR area since it can really be different from county to county.

Run your quote here:

quote and enroll in medicare plans


Make sure to add medication and doctor info so only the best-suited plans show in the quote for your situation. can filter UnitedHealth on the left to see just their plans or compare them against the other plans in your area.

Let's do a quick scan.

LA county and United Health AARP Advantage plans:  

  • United (AARP) rounds out the top 10 in terms of value
  • Top HMO plans have 4.0 stars or higher rating; PPOs only have 2.5 (down the list)

Los Angeles AARP Advantage plans




We'll dig deeper into the plans below.


What about Bay Area (our other test market; San Jose specifically since options change by area)?

  • United Health (AARP) top plan comes in at #6:

quote United AARP Advantage plans in Bay Area



Pretty heavy competition with SCAN (see SCAN review) and Alignment in this area.  Very different from Los Angeles!

Again, 4.0 Star Rating by Medicare's internal system.  

The real competition there is SCAN at 4.5.

Finally, San Diego:


United Health AARP quote for San Diego


  • #10 on the list with Sharp, SCAN, and Alignment strong up above outside of Kaiser.


A pretty solid offering in terms of max out-of-pocket and premium.  It's just really competitive there with Sharp and SCAN.

So... a solid offering in the major markets.  There's one thing we're not seeing by just looking a the Star Ratings which can be the decision-maker for Advantage plans.


Why is United Health so popular in California

We'll put the AARP marketing prowess aside for a second.  United has an ace up its sleeve with Advantage plans.

First, we need to explain the two pieces we're not seeing that really make Advantage plans different from Medicare supplements.

Doctor networks and drug formularies.

With Advantage HMO plans, you have a defined network of doctors you have to use (outside of true conservative on that).

This is just a function of the HMO model and a way to contain costs by working more tightly with a defined group of doctors.

Same for hospitals that contracts with those doctors and your advantage carrier.

Two of the biggest complaints (by far) with all Advantage plan members:

  • I can't see my doctors
  • My meds are not on the list 


Again, this is the trade-off between Advantage plans and Medicare supplements (where you can see any Medicare provider).


the advantage plan doctor networks


If access to doctors and/or better providers is a key concern for you, United becomes a real challenger.

They have the biggest Advantage plan networks, and that really matters when health takes a turn.  

This really is United's lead-in with the whole market and sets them apart.

You can enter your doctor/medication info upfront when you run your quote here to make sure this question is addressed.

United is more likely to be on that short list, and this could drive the decision!

We're happy to help you compare options, and there's no cost for our assistance:

quote part d according to your medications


So...let's talk about United's different Advantage plans.  There are a few of them!

The different types of United Health Advantage plans in California

Just looking at Los Angeles County (the biggest Advantage market by far), we see a range of options:

  • AARP Choice Plans (1 and 2)
  • AARP Secured Horizons Focus plan
  • AARP Secured Horizons Premier plan 
  • AARP  Medicare Advantage Rebate plan
  • AARP  Harmony Plans
  • AARP Freedom Plus plans
  • AARP Patriot plans


Goodness, how do we compare all these?  First, we're happy to help at!

A quick breakdown.

The Choice plans are PPO so you'll have a network in which you'll get the best benefits.  Out-of-network always requires more out-of-pocket.

The Rebate plan kicks back Part B premium money to you.  We're not big fans of this unless you're really struggling to make the Part B payments, and in that case, you really need to check into getting extra help (local county or Medicare).  United's option here is one of the best since they kept their max lower.

What gives with the Secured Horizons plans?  Secured Horizons was a huge senior player from Pacificare which United Health bought.

Many of these members just stayed with SecuredHorizons (they were the original OG in this space for California when Advantage came out).

We can actually learn a lot from the quote you run in your areas since we'll have the "Triple Threat" data regardless:

  • Lowest Max out of pocket (ideally under $1000 - we explain why in our Insider's Guide to Advantage plans
  • Low or no premium
  • Star Rating 4.0 or higher

how to compare california medicare advantage plans and carriers



Okay.  So...what shows for our Los Angeles quote?

The top 3 quotes (according to how Medicare shows them) from United are:

  • Secured Horizons Focus
  • Rebate
  • Harmony

quote top United Health AARP advantage plans for LA



Notice how the top 3 choices match our comparison requirement:

  • Zero premium
  • Max out-of-pocket of $800 (under $1000)
  • 4 Star rating

We've given you the keys to the kingdom in our How to Pick the Best Advantage plan!

Down the list is their PPO option (Choice Plan) but the Star rating is not great at 2.5.  This reflects people's attempt to get the pros of Advantage plans (cost) with more network flexibility.

quote United health advantage plans in los angeles


So...somewhere between HMO Advantage and Medicare supplements.

You still have constraints on medications and how you access care.  Just more network breadth and flexibility.

It's hard for us to justify a $4,500 max out of pocket when we can get the G plan at roughly $150 (varies by area and age)  and a Part D for $20 (so $2000/annually) and have almost everything covered in terms of Medicare gaps (just not the Part B deductible).

what are the gaps in medicare


Now, the front-runners make more sense since they're hitting our triple threat trigger!

The other "bells and whistles" seem like window-dressing for us (gyms, dental, etc.) since the max out-of-pocket is the real show.  Learn more at our how to pick the best Medicare plan.

Don't get starstruck by free vision when there's a $5K backend if you get big bills!

65+ is a bad time to take that gamble.

healthcare cost by age


In the end, United's real strength is its network, and this somewhat gets reflected in our Star Rating (remember...biggest complaint is that member can't see their doctors).

If network access is your primary driver, United is the prime challenger.

This is great and all for 66 year old in Los Angeles County.  What about your situation?

How to quote United Health advantage plans

First, run your free quote here:

quote medicare advantage plans in california with free assistance

The doctor/RX info is really important because our free quoting system will show you the plans that work with your current setup!

That's complaint #1 and 2 that we can scratch off from the get-go!

You'll then get a full quote in your area.  

If you might be eligible for Special Needs Plans (Medi-cal eligibility or chronic health), click on "See All Special Needs Plans" as we as "All non-licensed plans". 

Reach out to us with questions but focus on the Triple Threat:

  • Low or no monthly cost
  • Lowest max out of pocket
  • Star Rating of 4.0 or higher


United generally has contenders that meet these requirements although some areas are tougher (Bay Area and Rural) for all carriers.

Again, the feather in their cap is the network size!  For some people (roughly 30% of the market), this is the deal breaker!

So...what about when you find a plan you like and it works with your doctors and medications?

How to enroll in United Health Advantage plans

When you run a quote through our system above, there will be an option for online enrollment with AARP plans by United!

It will keep all your info, and here's the best part.

With each open enrollment, you can quickly update meds, doctors, etc, and you will save 90% of the time and hassle of comparing or changing plans!

There's no cost to use this secured system and zero cost for our assistance!  Learn how to make sure an Advantage plan broker is good here.

Reach out with any questions.  United Health by AARP is our go-to for people who want the broadest doctor and hospital networks.  We don't see that changing anytime soon.

quote california medicare carriers and plans online