Life transitions and health insurance coverage of the near elderly.
OBJECTIVES: This study addresses three issues. (1) What are demographic wealth, employment, and health characteristics of near-elderly persons losing or acquiring health insurance coverage? Specifically, (2) what are the effects of life transitions, including changes in employment status, health, and marital status? (3) To what extent do public policies protect such persons against coverage loss, including various state policies recently implemented to increase access to insurance? METHODS: The authors used the 1992 and 1994 waves of the Health and Retirement Study to analyze coverage among adults aged 51 to 64 years. RESULTS: One in five near-elderly persons experienced a change in insurance coverage from 1992 to 1994. Yet, there was no significant change in the mix of coverage as those losing one form of coverage were replaced by others acquiring similar coverage. CONCLUSIONS: Individuals whose health deteriorated significantly were not more likely than others to suffer a subsequent loss of coverage, due to substitution of retiree or individual coverage for those losing private coverage and acquisition of Medicaid and Medicare coverage for one in five uninsured. State policies to increase access to private health insurance generally did not prevent individuals from losing coverage or allow the uninsured to gain coverage. Major determinants of the probability of being insured were education, employment status of person and spouse, and work disability status. Other measures of health and functional status did not affect the probability of being insured, but had important impacts on the probability of having public coverage, conditional on being insured.
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