by Lesley Politi on December 11, 2008

Last week, insurance giant UnitedHealth Group announced a new program that lets individuals pay for the right to buy insurance in the future. Price of that option: 20% of the monthly premiums charged at the time you exercise it. UnitedHealth doesn’t make any promises as to the cost of the policy–just that you’ll have access to one later on.

With health care costs already through the roof, having to buy insurance on insurance might seem absurd. But this scheme isn’t as crazy as it sounds. In many states, those who don’t have employer-sponsored insurance and are diagnosed with diabetes, cancer or even allergies can’t get health insurance at all. Other insurers might deign to sell a policy but exclude coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.

About 46 million Americans are uninsured. As the recession wears on, their ranks will continue to grow. The Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy think tank, estimates that for every 1% increase in unemployment, 1.1 million more adults will lose their employer-sponsored health insurance–leaving them to navigate the nightmarish “individual” health-insurance market.


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