Group medical coverage refers to a single policy issued to a group (typically a business with employees, although there are other kinds of groups that can get coverage) that covers all eligible employees and sometimes their dependents. Individual medical coverage, on the other hand, is a single policy issued to a single person or family.
The rules are quite different for group coverage versus individual coverage, in large part because the insurer’s risk is calculated differently. With individual coverage, the insurer has historically based its premium rates (or denied coverage) on the detailed medical history of the person or family. (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will bring important changes to the individual market in 2014, including eliminating the ability of insurers to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions.)
With groups such as small businesses, the insurer determines a premium price based on risk factors balanced over the entire group, using general information on members of the group, such as age or gender. Insurers are required by law to offer coverage to small groups.