Affordable Individual Coverage Unattainable for Some Older Adults
U.S. adults ages 50 to 64 often cannot obtain affordable individual health insurance policies as they reach a "prime age to start developing health problems," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
According to the AARP Public Policy 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 insurance must go through an underwriting process that involves evaluating their backgrounds, 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 for Consumers Union, said that, under current law, health insurers can select the healthiest applicants for individual policies and charge high premium rates for less healthy applicants. Mark Beach, a spokesperson for AARP in California, said, "The 50-to-64 gap is where it's very, very precarious in the individual market," adding, "People in that age bracket are either priced out of insurance or they just can't get it."
Some health insurers have begun to offer individual policies that target adults ages 50 to 64, as many of them "are healthy and have higher incomes than younger people," according to the Chronicle. Under a seven-year agreement with AARP reached in April, Aetna on Jan. 1, 2008, will begin to offer individual health insurance policies that target adults ages 50 to 64. In addition, Humana in April began to offer three individual health insurance policies targeted at specific age groups, such as adults ages 50 to 64.
Steven DeRaleau -- chief operating officer for HumanaOne, the individual health insurance division of Humana -- said, "We're looking for ways to expand our business, and we saw we 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 there may be a decent number that may want to take an early retirement and need individual coverage" (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/21).