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Price hikes hammer individual health coverage

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- When health insurance costs rise for individual buyers, they soar: The average premium rose 20% in its most recent increase, according to a report released Monday.

About 14 million Americans younger than 65 buy their own individual health plans, rather than purchasing coverage through their employers, said the report from the nonprofit group Kaiser Family Foundation. More than three-quarters of that contingent said they were recently hit with a price hike.

"[This] shows that the steep increases we have been reading about over the last several months are not just extreme cases," Kaiser chief executive Drew Altman said in the report.

Still, only 16% of all non-group policyholders said they switched insurers. And many of those who jumped ship are now getting less coverage: Half of the those who changed said their new plans were inferior to the old ones.

Coverage and cost worries: Individual plan customers carry an average annual deductible of $2,438 -- almost four times the average deductible for common employer-sponsored plans.

As a result, 40% of the individual policyholders said they were "not too confident" or "not at all confident" that they would be able to pay their medical bills.

Kaiser's report surveyed 1,038 people, ages 18-64, who bought their own health coverage. The poll was conducted between March 19 and April 2, during the final congressional debate and enactment of the sweeping health care reform legislation. To top of page

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