Nearly nine of 10 who seek individual market health insurance never buy a plan

New York, NY, September 14, 2006 -- A new report from the Commonwealth Fund finds that, as employers cope with rising health care costs by dropping health benefits or increasing employee cost-sharing through higher deductibles, workers and their families are being squeezed. When people lose coverage, many who turn to the individual insurance market find that coverage is unobtainable or unaffordable. The report also finds that those with high-deductible health plans are more likely than those with lower deductibles to have burdensome medical debt and to forego needed health care; those with low incomes are especially at risk.

An overwhelming majority--89%--of working-age adults who sought coverage in the individual market during the past three years ended up never buying a plan. A majority (58%) found it very difficult or impossible to find affordable coverage. One-fifth (21%) of those who sought to buy coverage were turned down, were charged a higher price because of a pre-existing condition, or had a health problem excluded from coverage.

"More workers and their families are losing employer-sponsored health insurance," said Commonwealth Fund Assistant Vice President Sara Collins, lead author of the report. "Most of the increase in the number of uninsured Americans--now upwards of 46.6 million--was due to a decline in workplace coverage. Although the individual market is a last resort for those shut out of employer-sponsored coverage, it is by no means a safe or secure haven for everyone."

People with High-Deductible Health Plans Face Potentially Large Cost Burdens The report also highlights the increasing cost burdens families are facing due to the decline in the quality of coverage and more cost-shifting to employees. Adults with high-deductible health plans--both those with individual market or employer-based coverage--have higher out-of-pocket costs than do those with lower-deductible plans. In addition, many adults with suc

Contact: Mary Mahon
Commonwealth Fund

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