Health insurance companies increasingly are focusing marketing efforts for individual policies on the estimated seven million uninsured U.S. residents between the ages of 50 and 64 -- a group they once had "a history of avoiding" because of costly claims for health conditions that frequently affect that age group, the AP/Boston Herald reports. According to some experts, financially secure adults who retire earlier than usual or require insurance after corporate cutbacks are helping drive this trend, which targets people in the years preceding their eligibility for Medicare.

In addition, because of its size, the baby boom generation "represents a big chunk of potential," according to Steve DeRaleau, chief operating officer of HumanaOne, which introduced an individual policy last spring for early retirees.

The number of large companies and employers that offer health benefits to their workers and retirees is decreasing. People who have been laid off from their jobs at larger companies that offered employee benefits are also less likely to find comparable jobs again, according to John Wider, vice president of health products and services for AARP Services.

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, noted that the target age group can be costly for insurers because older adults are more likely than younger people to experience chronic health ailments or require treatment for heart disease or cancer. Pollack said, "For those companies that may be willing to provide coverage to you, they'll charge you an arm and a leg because they will adjust their premiums to reflect what the risk might be."

However, Jude Thompson, WellPoint's president of individual markets, said, "We don't have tougher underwriting or a different set of standards for 50- to 64-year-olds than anyone else" (AP/Boston Herald, 10/31).

Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation© 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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