The percentage of new insurance claims filed by younger people under critical illness policies is increasing, while decreasing for older policyholders, according to the American Association of Critical Illness Insurance.

At the same time, the number of policyholders of critical illness insurance is growing as traditional health insurance becomes more expensive. Researchers analyzed data for more than 57,000 critical illness insurance policyholders plus critical care claims from other insurance carriers for the study conducted by General Re Life Corporation.

The biggest jump was in the percentage of new claims filed by women between 45 to 54 years of age, which went up to 35% from 23%. For men that age, the new claims increased from 29% to 33%.

The percentage of male policyholders who filed new critical illness claims who were between 35 and 44 years of age increased to 8% for men and 10% for women in 2011, compared to 4% for each the prior year.
The majority of claims (53% for both males and females) were filed by those over 54 years of age, down from 71% for women the year before and 66% for men.

Cancer accounted for the majority of new claims (61%), the same as the previous year. That was followed by strokes at 18%, compared to 5% the year before, and heart attacks at 11%, compared to 14% the year before. In 2010, other causes for new claims were at 20% and dropped to 9% last year.

"The increase in younger claimants is likely due to an increase in younger buyers of this relatively new form of insurance coverage," said Jesse Slome, executive director of the critical illness insurance trade group. "With higher health insurance deductibles and more restrictive plans, critical illness insurance is starting to gain traction among buyers in their 30s and 40s."

-Karen DeMasters