Employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) coverage has special importance for the near elderly. Unlike elderly Americans, those in their late fifties and early sixties are not eligible for Medicare benefits, unless they are disabled. Because the risk of expensive health problems increases with age in adulthood, non-group health insurance coverage can be prohibitively expensive for the near elderly. Going without health insurance altogether can be especially risky, because the threat of serious health problems can expose uninsured near-elderly persons to catastrophic health care costs. Employers, then, may provide the only affordable source of health insurance coverage for most persons approaching the Medicare eligibility age.
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