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

The number of critical illness insurance policyholders is also growing, the association found. This comes at a time when traditional health insurance has become more expensive.

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

"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."

The percentage of policyholders between 35 and 44 years of age who filed new critical illness claims increased to 8% for men and 10% for women in 2011, from 4% for both sexes the previous 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%, up from 5% the year before, and heart attacks at 11%, down from 14% the year before.

Researchers analyzed data for more than 57,000 critical illness insurance policyholders plus critical care claims from other insurance carriers for the study, which was conducted by the American Association of Critical Illness Insurance and General Re Life Corporation.
-Karen DeMasters