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Health Insurance Coverage of People in the Ten Years Before Medicare Eligibility

By: Katherine Swartz and Betsey Stevenson
Published: January 2001
Health and Income Security for an Aging Workforce Brief No. 2 ~ January 2001

Summary: A decade remains before the oldest members of the baby boom generation begin to be eligible for Medicare. A number of these baby boomers will retire between the ages of 55 to 64, prior to qualifying for Medicare. Some will retire by choice; others will lose their job involuntarily; many will accept part-time or contract employment. As their employment situation is altered, many risk losing their employer-sponsored health insurance. The soon-to-be large number of baby boomers in the 55-64 age group prompts a look at who is at risk for being uninsured, the types of health insurance coverage they have, and the characteristics of those with each type of health insurance.

For people between the ages of 55 to 64, labor market participation, income level, health status, gender, marital status, educational attainment, and race are all associated with having health insurance. Though these characteristics are related to each other, income, educational attainment, and health status have the largest effects on having health insurance, as well as the type of insurance coverage a 55-64 year old has. Thus, the “more fortunate”— those who are relatively healthy, with higher educational attainment and higher incomes — are more likely to have employer-sponsored or individually purchased insurance; the “less fortunate”— those who are less healthy, less educated and lower income — are more likely to have public insurance or be uninsured.