Consumers who buy their own insurance face steep hikes

Individuals who buy their own health insurance face steep rate increases, and the only alternatives may be higher deductibles or poorer benefits.

Those increases averaged 20 percent, according to a survey released Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Overall, 77 percent report facing a premium hike with a current or previous insurer.

Most say they paid the increase, but 16 percent say they switched plans. Of those who switched, 49 percent say their new benefits are worse than what they received under their previous plan. 

Many of those who purchase their own insurance report being in high-deductible plans, including 26 percent with an annual deductible of $5,000 or more and 6 percent with a deductible of $10,000 or more.

Those who buy their own coverage are significantly more likely to worry about being able to pay for healthcare than are those with employer coverage, the survey finds. Moreover, more than half say they think it would be difficult to switch insurers (often because they or someone in their family had a medical condition). Currently, insurers can reject applicants with medical conditions, a practice that will be barred starting in 2014 under the new health reform law, reports Kaiser Health News.

"With people in the individual market being hit with average increases of 20 percent, the survey shows that the steep increases we have been reading about over the last several months are not just extreme cases," Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said in a prepared statement.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News story
- check out this Bloomberg article at Businessweek
check out Reuters' coverage
- here are the KFF survey results

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