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Aetna Research Shows Consumer Confusion Over Health Insurance Options After Being Laid Off


New content on Plan for Your Health website helps ’demystify’ individual health insurance

HARTFORD, Conn. — As hundreds of thousands of individuals lose their jobs each month and the unemployment rate rises to 8.1 percent1, one of the primary issues facing laid off workers and their families is what to do about health benefits. According to a recent survey from Aetna (NYSE: AET), consumers have a low awareness and understanding of an important option - individual health insurance plans - and also have misperceptions about the cost of COBRA2 coverage.

The survey found that 69 percent of consumers had never heard of individual health insurance plans or did not know much about them. While general awareness of COBRA plans was higher, 38 percent of respondents said they expected to pay the same premiums as when they were employed.

In fact, the typical cost of COBRA coverage is 102 percent of the total premium, which is the actual cost of the plan and not just the amount an employee has deducted from his or her paycheck. Without an employer contributing a portion of the premium payments, paying double or more is not unheard of for an individual to keep the same coverage.

“This research showed that consumers are more aware of COBRA coverage, but don’t seem to understand the true costs,” said Frank McCauley, head of Aetna’s Consumer Business Segment. “With more and more people entering the individual health insurance market, it is essential for people to have a clear understanding of all of the options that are available to them.”

Since most people are accustomed to receiving health benefits through their jobs, many are unfamiliar with the idea of purchasing health insurance on their own. To help educate consumers on this topic, Aetna has developed new content on the Plan for Your Health website that gives people the basics on individual health insurance, helps them compare this option with COBRA coverage, and offers tips on how to choose the plan that best fits their needs. Plan for Your Health is a partnership of Aetna and the Financial Planning Association that offers general health benefits and financial planning information.

Recent COBRA Changes
As part of the national economic stimulus package, people who were laid off (or may lose their jobs) between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 and who select COBRA coverage will receive a 65 percent subsidy of the total COBRA premium for up to nine months.

These changes are a positive temporary solution and will make COBRA coverage more affordable for eligible consumers. However, even with this subsidy, consumers still may be able to find individual health insurance plans that are less expensive and fit their budget better.

“In some cases, COBRA is the best alternative for an individual and his or her family, and we encourage consumers who are put in this difficult situation to sign up initially to provide themselves with a ’safety net,’ since they are usually only eligible to sign up for this coverage within two months or losing their own coverage,” McCauley said. “However, it is important for consumers to research individual health plans, which can offer a more affordable health insurance solution - something especially important to consider after losing a job.”

The survey also showed that 51 percent of people were unaware that they could apply for individual health insurance coverage while they were active on a COBRA plan.

Aetna Options
In addition to providing this new content, Aetna offers a wide range of individual plan choices that enable consumers to select the coverage and premium levels that best fit their specific needs. The Aetna Advantage Plan3 designs include PPO-style plans; high-deductible health plans compatible with health savings accounts; preventive and hospital plans that combine coverage for preventive care with catastrophic coverage for services like inpatient hospital care and outpatient surgery; and an optional dental PPO plan.

Each Aetna Advantage Plan is also available on a child-only basis, so that parents can obtain health coverage for their children, even if no other family members enroll in the plan. An optional dental PPO plan is also available alongside any of these plans.

Aetna Advantage Plans for Individuals and Families are currently available in 29 states and Washington, D.C.4 Additional information about Aetna’s plans for individuals and their families is available at or by calling 1-866-582-9629

About the Survey
Results are based on a survey of 290 adults conducted for Aetna by Linescale Research. Qualified respondents were over 18 years old and reported that they recently became unemployed within the last three months or feared becoming unemployed within the next three months. All data were collected via an online survey on Dec. 16 and 17, 2008


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