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A first for Minnesota: Medica offers non-group health coverage to any two individuals

In what it describes as a first-of-a-kind health insurance product in Minnesota and perhaps the nation, Minnetonka-based Medica is offering a non-group policy that any two individuals can purchase together, whether they are related or not.

The product, called Medica Encore, is targeted at the pre-retirement boomer generation ages 50 to 64 who lack traditional health coverage through employers or other group sponsors, the company says.

“What we call the 1+ Anyone option allows purchasers to take back control by allowing them to define a relationship on their terms,” said Charlene Maher, Medica vice president of individual business, in a prepared release describing the new feature.

Based on research from AARP, Medica estimated there were 58,000 uninsured Minnesotans in that age bracket in 2007, according to Medica spokesman Craig Ashby. “That’s a huge number” that has only grown larger given the recession that hit in 2008, he added.

When asked if the product was created in response to growing unemployment among older workers, Ashby said that the nonprofit health insurance company has been creating insurance products targeted at specific demographic groups for four years and this product “would have been introduced” even without the current recession.

Ashby, who is director of product development and strategic growth initiatives at Medica, said allowing two individuals to be covered under an individual non-group plan makes the product unique in Minnesota. Coverage is offered to any one or two adults, any one or two children (with a guarantor adult signature) or an adult and a child on one plan. This enables an individual to include coverage for an uninsured adult child, an adult sibling or an unrelated person, coverage that has traditionally not been available in individual health insurance plans, Ashby added.

Another natural market would appear to be cohabiting couples, both straight and gay, who often have trouble finding an available joint health care option.

Ashby said the pre-retirement boomers who lack health insurance and are not yet eligible for Medicare are often able to afford high deductibles but are typically looking for “insurance against a catastrophic loss” and are looking for other features important to their stage in life, including the flexibility to determine whom to purchase insurance with.

Other features designed with the pre-Medicare boomer in mind include annual preventive checkups with no copayments or deductible; prescription drug coverage, an eyewear allowance, and unlimited office visits. By purchasing a policy together, two policyholders may be able to reach a policy’s annual deductible faster and thereby avoid out-of-pocket costs more quickly. Ashby added.

The company said that the product will be available in February. The two-person policy offers three deductible options: $6,000, $7,500 and $9,000, while the single-person policy offers $4,000, $6,500 and $9,000 deductibles.

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