WASHINGTON-- Millions of Americans buying health insurance on their own have a wide variety of products from which to choose, and most select plans very similar to the coverage available to working people in employer-sponsored groups.

Those are the findings of the third in a series of studies examining the marketplace for individual health insurance in the United States released today by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).  The three studies represent the most comprehensive examination of the individual market ever undertaken.

"Over the past several years, our studies have consistently shown that the marketplace continues to provide choices for those who purchase individual and family policies outside the group market," said AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni.

"We expect the innovation to continue in the future with the increased availability of consumer choice health plans, and health plans tied into the new market for Health Savings Account that Congress created in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003," she said.

The survey of benefit designs released today asked AHIP member companies active in the individual market to provide detailed data on the benefits provided under policies and certificates sold during the 12 month period ending on March 31, 2003.  Eleven companies provided data on 543,186 individual policies and 296,736 family policies actually sold to consumers. The survey was designed to provide a level of detail on individual market benefits comparable to that available for employer-sponsored benefits.

The new study indicates the "typical" policy purchased by consumers in the individual health insurance market is a PPO plan with a deductible between $750 and $2,000; an annual out-of-pocket limit between $3,000 and $7,500; a lifetime maximum benefit from $2 to $5 million; a prescription drug card; and coverage for inpatient and outpatient mental health, inpatient and outpatient substance abuse, annual visits to an obstetrician/gynecologist, well-baby care, and for complications of pregnancy.

An earlier study by AHIP showed that nearly nine out of ten people who completed the application process for non-group insurance were offered coverage, with more than seven out of ten applicants receiving their requested coverage at standard rates.

Another study from AHIP found that in 2002 the annual premium for single coverage averaged $2,070, and the average annual premium for family coverage was just over $4,000.  The same study indicates premiums for individually purchased health insurance increase with age: for young single adults, premiums average between $1,000 and $1,200 a year, while for older persons the average increases to between $3,300 and $3,600.  Family premiums range from $2,300 at younger ages to $6,200 for those near Medicare eligibility. Annual premiums for employer-sponsored health plans during 2002 averaged $3,060 for single coverage and $7,954 for family coverage.

Source: America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)



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