Health insurers see lucrative market with early retirees
Roughly 7 million Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 are
uninsured. Federal Medicare kicks in at age 65.
By Tom Murphy, The Associated Press
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Health insurers trying to boost individual policy sales are
making a new push into an older market -- the roughly 7 million
uninsured Americans between the ages of 50 and 64.
Financially stable baby boomers who either retire young or need
coverage after a corporate downsizing are driving this push,
experts say. Insurers also want to build ties to customers
who may need Medicare-related insurance after they turn 65.
Humana Inc. launched a new individual policy last spring that
targets early retirees. WellPoint Inc., the nation's
largest health insurer, is testing a similar plan. Aetna
Inc. announced in April a seven-year agreement with AARP to sell
individual insurance to its members between the ages of 50 and
But this coverage push draws skepticism from consumer watchdogs
who say insurers have a history of avoiding this age range and
the expensive claims for illnesses that often hit that group.
"That is a market that needs to be served, partly because
traditionally WellPoint won't serve them," said Jamie Court of
the California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer
That is not the case, according to Jude Thompson, WellPoint's
president of individual markets.
"We don't have tougher underwriting or a different set of
standards for 50- to 64-year-olds than anyone else," he said.
Federal Medicare coverage starts at age 65. Insurers find
the age group sitting in front of that marker attractive for
One is sheer volume. The Census Bureau estimates the baby
boomer population, ages 43 to 61, at 78 million people.
That's about a quarter of the
The market "represents a big chunk of potential," said Steve
DeRaleau, chief operating officer of HumanaOne, Humana's
Additionally, employers are dropping retiree benefits. The
percentage of large companies that offer health benefits to
employees and retirees has dropped from 66 percent in 1988 to 33
percent this year, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family