Researchers Explore Patterns of Individual Health Insurance Coverage

Researchers at the Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, with colleagues at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, explored the role of the individual health insurance market as a source of health insurance coverage for non-elderly adults in the United States.

This project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program Changes in Health Care Financing and Organization (HCFO).

Key Findings

  • Some 5.9 percent of those surveyed had individual health insurance at the time of the interview. Of these, almost 74 percent were employed.

  • Almost half of all spells of individual insurance lasted less than six months. People working for a small business and those who were self-employed generally had longer spells of individual insurance.

  • Some 13 percent of people surveyed reported at least one spell of individual insurance during the four-year survey period. Most had only one spell, but almost one-third had two spells and nearly 10 percent had three or more.

Key Conclusions

  • The individual insurance market is relatively heterogeneous, with most individual-coverage spells bridging gaps in employer-based coverage.

  • These findings support previous speculation that the individual insurance market is volatile, therefore increasing marketing and administrative costs for the insurance industry.