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If you were considering the individual insurance market, consider this

July 22, 2009 |  3:38 pm

Test For most people, being solely responsible for their own health insurance just isn't feasible. And healthcare costs are no picnic for those with employer-based insurance either.

Such are the findings in a new report from the Commonwealth Fund, a private healthcare-research foundation.

It says: "Over the last three years, nearly three-quarters of people who tried to buy coverage in this market never actually purchased a plan, either because they could not find one that fit their needs or that they could afford, or because they were turned down due to a preexisting condition."

To be exact, among adults ages 19 to 64 with individual coverage or who tried to buy individual coverage in the past three years:

-- 47% found it very difficult or impossible to find coverage they needed.

-- 57% found it very difficult or impossible to find affordable coverage.

-- 36% were turned down, charged a higher price, or excluded because of a preexisting condition.

Ultimately, 73% never bought a plan.

The report also found that:

"Even people enrolled in employer-based plans are spending larger amounts of their income on health care and curtailing their use of needed services to save money."

Here's the full issue brief, released Tuesday:

Among its conclusions: "The individual insurance market is clearly inadequate as a source of affordable health coverage for those Americans who do not have access to employer-based insurance.... Enrollment in the market has remained low over time, even as more people have lost their coverage: only about 16 million people, or 6 percent of the under-65 population, have individual coverage."

And here's a recent column from The Times' David Lazarus on a family shut out from the private insurance market. They resorted to the state's Major Risk Medical Insurance Program. He writes: "Susan, 62, a freelance writer, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a digestive disorder, four years ago. Stephen, 58, a part-time teacher and a poet, has Type 2 diabetes. 'We're spending all our retirement cash,' Susan told me. 'But this is the only insurance we could get.' "

Still hoping the individual insurance market is an option? It might be. But Kathy Kristof writes: "Choose the wrong policy and you could wind up without enough coverage to pay for a lengthy hospital stay or an expensive medicine. We offer tips on navigating this tangled system and, in related stories, alternatives for those who don't qualify for private insurance or can't afford it."

The Commonwealth Fund, by the way, describes itself as aiming "to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society's most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults."

-- Tami Dennis  

Photo credit: Associated Press

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