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Health Care Reform: What's at Stake for 50- to 64-Year-Olds?

Health care reform offers the opportunity to help reduce financial and health risks currently faced by millions of adults ages 50-64. The rising cost of health care has made access to adequate, affordable health care coverage problematic for many in this age group. Many are at risk of high health spending, and, in 2007, 7.1 million were uninsured. Those with insurance are more likely to spend a significant share of household income on health than younger adults, particularly if they obtain health coverage in the private individual market.

This paper looks at where this age group gets coverage, issues confronting those not covered through an employer, characteristics of the uninsured, and shifts in coverage with retirement. As debates about how to improve our health care system proceed, it will be important to look at how well they serve people who are most at risk in our current system, including adults ages 50-64. To successfully respond to cost and coverage problems faced by this group, health care reforms will need to address the following concerns:

  • Access to coverage for those not covered through an employer,
  • Cost and access barriers in the private individual market, and
  • Absence of a backstop for many who cannot obtain or afford private coverage.