For these economically uncertain times, Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group has a "first of its kind" product: The right to buy an individual health policy at some point in the future even if you become sick.

Called UnitedHealth Continuity, the product is not actual medical insurance, but is aimed at people who may have insurance now but are worried they may lose it -- and may not be able to get replacement insurance on their own.

They may expect to retire early, for example, before they qualify for Medicare. Or they might be worried about the possibility of losing their jobs and their health coverage.

People who are already sick will generally not be eligible for the new product. Those who do pass a medical review will pay 20 percent each month of the current premium on an individual policy to reserve the right to be insured under the plan at some point in the future.

"What this product is designed to do, for a very modest premium, is to essentially protect your insurability for the future," said Richard Collins, president of UnitedHealth's individual insurance unit, who says he is the first policyholder. His monthly fee is $50.

It is initially available in 25 of the 40 states where UnitedHealth now sells individual insurance. Monthly fees for reserving the right to UnitedHealth's insurance will vary, depending on people's age and sex, where they live and the level of coverage they select.