The AARP is calling for special attention to the plight of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64, as a growing number of them are finding themselves among the ranks of the uninsured.
"This group is not always thought of as one of the main groups having problems with health coverage, but it is an important group because it’s grown so much with the aging of the Baby Boomers," says Geri Smolka of the AARP’s Public Policy Institute.
According to the AARP, 11 percent of Iowans who are over 50 but not yet 65 — and eligible for Medicare — are uninsured. That’s just over 63,000 middle-aged Iowans who are not covered by insurance for a variety of reasons.
AARP spokesman Jim Dau says too many people between the ages of 50 and 64 find themselves in a "no-man’s land" when it comes to getting health insurance as they’re turned down because of "preexisting conditions" or just because they’re in that age group.
"Frankly, this is the central reason why AARP was founded 50 years ago and here in 2009 we’re looking at what should be a once-in-every-other-generation opportunity to reform our health care system and we’re still struggling with the same problem," Dau says.
The AARP’s data suggests that since the year 2000, there’s been a 36 percent increase in the number of 50-to-64 year olds who are uninsured. David Certner of the AARP says state legislatures and congress should pass laws which would prohibit insurers from denying health insurance policies to consumers based on their age or health.
"It’s very difficult for these folks to find insurance," Certner says. "Right now, roughly one-in-four to one-in-five people can’t even get insurance in this marketplace. They are simply rejected out of hand for some preexisting condition, so getting coverage to the 50-to-64s is one of AARP’s critical asks in health care reform."
Just under 10 percent of Nebraskans who are between the ages of 50 and 64 are uninsured according to the AARP. The group’s statistics for other neighboring states indicate Kansas has the most uninsured 50-to-64 year olds, as 14 percent of Kansas residents in that age group do not have health insurance. In Illinois, nearly 12 percent of residents in that age group lack health coverage. In Missouri, 8.8 percent of 50-to-64 year olds are uninsured; 8.4 percent of South Dakotans in the 50-to-64-year-old category do not have health insurance.
Middle-aged residents in states to the north and northeast of Iowa, however, have a much better change of being covered. In Wisconsin, only 6.4 percent of 50-to-64 year olds lack health insurance and in Minnesota, it’s even lower at 5.8 percent.