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Older US Adults Often Cannot Obtain Affordable Individual Health

Armen Hareyan's picture

U.S. adults ages 50 to 64often cannot obtain affordable individual health insurance policies as theyreach a "prime age to start developing health problems," the SanFrancisco Chronicle reports. According to the AARP PublicPolicy Institute,more than seven million adults ages 50 to 64, or about 14% of U.S. residents,did not have health insurance in 2005.

"Unlike the group market, people applying for individual health insurancemust go through an underwriting process that involves evaluating theirbackgrounds, including age and medical history," and most residents"don't reach their 50s without a few dings in their health record,"the Chronicle reports. Betsy Imholz, special projects director forConsumers Union, said that, under current law, health insurerscan select the healthiest applicants for individual policies and charge highpremium rates for less healthy applicants. Mark Beach, a spokesperson for AARP inCalifornia, said, "The 50-to-64 gap is where it's very, very precarious inthe individual market," adding, "People in that age bracket areeither priced out of insurance or they just can't get it."

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Targeted Policies

Some health insurers havebegun to offer individual policies that target adults ages 50 to 64, as many ofthem "are healthy and have higher incomes than younger people,"according to the Chronicle. Under a seven-year agreement with AARP reachedin April, Aetna on Jan. 1, 2008, will begin to offerindividual health insurance policies that target adults ages 50 to 64. Inaddition, Humana in April began to offer three individualhealth insurance policies targeted at specific age groups, such as adults ages50 to 64.

Steven DeRaleau -- chief operating officer for HumanaOne, the individual health insurance division ofHumana -- said, "We're looking for ways to expand our business, and we sawwe weren't penetrating this segment of the business as much as we'd like,"adding, "The baby boomers are a fairly affluent group, so we think theremay be a decent number that may want to take an early retirement and needindividual coverage" (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle,11/21).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.