The majority of women who buy individual health insurance policies are healthy, well-educated women between the ages of 45 and 64.

Researchers have published those findings in a report on women and health care released by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, N.J.

The researchers–Alina Salganicoff, Usha Ranji and Roberta Wyn–organized a 2004 survey of 2,766 U.S. women ages 18 and older and they also surveyed about 500 men. Much of the survey report focuses on the problems and needs of poor women and uninsured women.

But the researchers also looked at women with employer-sponsored health coverage and women with incomes equal to 3 times the federal poverty level, which is about $45,000 to $50,000 per year in many communities.

The researchers found that only 76% of the women with individual health insurance had incomes over 200% of the federal poverty level, compared with 81% of the women with employer-sponsored coverage.

But 72% of the women with individual health coverage had attended college, compared with just 64% of the women with employer-sponsored coverage.

Health status of women who bought their own coverage and women who got coverage from employers was similar: 88% of the women in both groups said they were in good, very good or excellent health.

But the women who bought their own health insurance considerably were older than the women insured by employers. About 55% of the women who bought their own coverage were between the ages of 45 and 64, compared with just 41% of the women who had employer-sponsored coverage.

Only 1% of the women with incomes below the federal poverty level owned individual health insurance, but penetration of individual coverage was similar at other income levels. The penetration rate was 5% for women with family incomes ranging between 100% and 199% of the federal poverty level; 5% for women with family incomes between 200% and 299% of the federal poverty level; and 6% for women with family incomes over 300% of the federal poverty level.

A total of 5% of all survey participants had purchased health coverage individually, compared with about 8% of men, perhaps because women were more likely to have Medicaid health coverage.

Kaiser study details women’s health insurance purchases