NU Online News Service, May 21, 6:15 p.m. – AARP, Washington, puts more emphasis on government-sponsored health finance programs in its second annual report on U.S. residents between the ages of 50 and 65.

Last year, in the first report, the authors suggested that “options ranging from Medicaid expansions to tax credits coupled with private health insurance market reforms bear serious examination.”

This year, the authors argue that middle-aged U.S. residents are a bad risk for private insurers because a large percentage run up big medical bills.

“The implication is that traditional insurance models, which rest on the assumption that only a small proportion of the insured will need services in a particular year, are simply not able to provide affordable coverage to older age groups,” the authors conclude.

The authors also question how much private long-term care insurers can do to solve the United States’ long-term care finance crisis.

Private LTC coverage is great for the people who can afford it, but “private long-term care insurance and individual savings will not be sufficient to provide adequate long-term care for most older Americans,” the authors write.

Insurance trade groups follow AARP policy recommendations closely, because AARP has 35 million members and has one of the most active, most visible lobbying efforts in Washington.

Susan Raetzman, the coordinator of the team that wrote the second report and associate director of the AARP Public Policy Institute, says the private health insurance industry has not demonstrated the ability to provide affordable health coverage for the many people between the ages of 50 and 65 who have health problems.

“This country continues to have a lot of problems?major problems?in delivering high quality, affordable health care,” Raetzman says.

AARP is interested in high-risk pools, employer incentives and other stand-alone reforms, but it would prefer to see the country move toward a universal health coverage system, Raetzman says.