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Nearly 11 million Americans have individual health insurance policies, but some only for a short time

Research Activities, February 2009, No. 367

Nearly 11 million Americans have individual health insurance policies, but some only for a short time

About 10.9 million Americans under age 65 purchased individual health insurance policies at some point in 2006, but only 7 million were covered by these policies for the full year, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). People generally buy individual health insurance because they cannot get insurance from their employers, have lost a job that offers insurance, or do not qualify for Medicaid or other public programs. The 3.9 million individuals who had individual health insurance policies for part of the year were covered for about 6 months on average.

AHRQ's analysis also shows that of Americans who bought individual policies for part of the year, nearly 44 percent were able to obtain coverage for the full year because they or their spouse got a job that offered health insurance or they had incomes low enough to quality for Medicaid or other public insurance. Most of this coverage came from employers. In addition:

  • Forty percent obtained employer-sponsored health insurance.
  • Three percent enrolled in Medicaid or other public insurance.
  • Less than 1 percent obtained both employment-based insurance and public insurance.

These data are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid.

For more information, go to Length of Coverage in the Individual Health Insurance Market for the Non-Elderly U.S. Population, 2006, MEPS Statistical Brief 227 at http://meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb.

Current as of February 2009
Internet Citation: Nearly 11 million Americans have individual health insurance policies, but some only for a short time: Research Activities, February 2009, No. 367. February 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/research-activities/feb09/0209RA32.html