The Southern Colorado Tea Party rallied yesterday in Pueblo, voicing their opposition to the health care reform bills. One of the protesters who came to the rally was Warren Abbate, who said “It’s time people took back the government. Everything in Washington is wrong. The government is too big and arrogant. If I can’t afford health care, that’s my problem, not the government’s.” Abbate is an 80 year old retiree, and is thus covered by Medicare. But he said that private health insurance would provide better coverage.
I don’t know any more details about Mr. Abbate’s specific situation than what was included in the article about the rally. I don’t know if he has chosen to carry a private Medigap policy or Medicare D for prescriptions. But I wonder if he’s aware of just how much a private health insurance policy would cost if such a thing were available.
Individual health insurance is available until a person reaches age 65, but the prices increase dramatically with age; people in their 60s pay substantially higher premiums than people in their 30s. Statistically, health care costs increase with age, and it would stand to reason that if people could continue buying their own health insurance past the age of 65, the prices would continue to climb rapidly.
Out of curiosity, I ran quotes for a perfectly healthy non-smoking, 64 year old male living in Pueblo. The premiums for my hypothetical client ranged from $123/month for a bare-bones, $10,000 deductible policy with 50% coinsurance, all the way up to $1,788/month for a very comprehensive, 100% coverage HSA plan with a $1,200 deductible. Most of the popular policies were in the $300 – $500/month range.
I’m not able to run quotes for an 80 year old, but obviously the premiums would be significantly higher for an 80 year old than for a 64 year old, if such policies existed. Even if Mr. Abbate has chosen to have the very best Medigap and Medicare D coverage he can get, my guess is that his combined monthly premiums for his health insurance is a fraction of what it would cost if he were buying all of his health insurance from private carriers. I wonder if he would still be saying “If I can’t afford health care, that’s my problem…” if his only option were to purchase his own policy at 80 years of age?
Individual health insurance is a great option for people who are healthy, and especially those who are relatively young. For people who are self-employed, it’s a good alternative to higher-priced group of one policies, and it gives people the flexibility to pursue entrepreneurship without being tied to employer-sponsored health insurance. But the price increases with age, and many early retirees find it a challenge to pay for health insurance during the years before they are eligible for Medicare. My guess is that even if private individual policies could be purchased by people over the age of 65, very few people would take that option, simply because of the price.