Competition Grows In Individual Health Insurance Market

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The Hartford Courant on Monday examined the "growing competition" in the individual health insurance market, in which health insurers have begun to offer a "dizzying array of policies" in a "broader spectrum of prices." As part of increased competition, health insurers have sought to make individual health insurance policies more affordable through elimination or limitation of certain benefits and higher deductibles for policyholders. Health insurers have targeted consumers of all ages for individual health insurance policies, with a focus on early retirees and "young invincibles" -- adults in their 20s and early 30s who often believe that they do not require health insurance and do not have access to coverage through their employers.

According to the Courant, health insurers continue to reject applications from consumers with pre-existing medical conditions or require them to pay premiums 25% to 50% higher than standard rates, but, "rather than wait for health care reform as efforts lurch forward and back, some consumers could benefit by taking a second look at individual policies."

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Patrick Quirk, product director for individual markets at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut, said, "There is definitely more competition, more players entering into the market and more products available than ever before." Stephen Jewett, a spokesperson for ConnectiCare, said, "We are in a mature insurance market, and some of the biggest potential is in the individual market."

He added that "all the insurers recognize that." Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project, said, "I'm very skeptical of individual markets," adding, "It may be better, but it's so bad that they've got a long way to go before it gets to what we have in the small group market" (Levick, Hartford Courant, 8/18).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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