How to Get Health Insurance When Work Doesn't Cover It

Whether you work for yourself, or you've recently been laid off, it's important for you to have health insurance.  There are a good number of relatively affordable options available to you if you know where to look.

Pounce on COBRA.

If you've recently left your job, you might be able to continue your employer's heath coverage under COBRA (The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985). Though you can extend your benefits under COBRA for up to 18 months, you may be paying a hefty price, since the provision requires you to cover the amount your employer was subsidizing. If you were laid off during 2009, however, you may be eligible for a reimbursement of 65% of your COBRA premiums.

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Comparison Shop (for Health Insurance)

COBRA can be pricey. If you're looking for an alternative, check out, where you can compare quotes on individual insurance plans from major carriers such as Blue Cross and Aetna.

Join the Club. Well, the Group

If you're self-employed, check out the Freelancers Union. Coverage varies by state, however, and group health coverage is not offered in all states. You can also look into coverage offered by the National Association for the Self-Employed; you won't be able to search plans on their website, but a representative will contact you to discuss options available in your state. Alternately, see if your alumni organization, a relevant professional organization, or your local Chamber of Commerce offers a group health plan.

While you may be required to pay up to a few hundred dollars in membership fees for these organizations, you should be able to recoup your outlay through joining a group health plan, which can save you over $500 a month.

Guarantee Your Health, Even if You Have a Preexisting Condition.

Finding an affordable health insurance plan is particularly difficult of you have a pre-existing medical condition. If this is the case and you're thinking of switching from COBRA to an individual plan, find out if your state offers guaranteed-issue health insurance. Insurance companies operating in guaranteed-issue health insurance states are required to offer you the ability to purchase an insurance policy, regardless of your medical history. States like New York, Maine, and Vermont require that all insurers provide guaranteed-issue health insurance. Other states, like Florida and Oregon, provide guaranteed-issue health insurance on a limited basis. Meanwhile, some states, like Virginia and Pennsylvania, do not require that their providers offer guaranteed-issue health insurance.

Searching for affordable health insurance on your own can be tough, but the effort is well worth it. You may have to settle for a plan with a high deductible, but remember: Any health insurance is better than none.


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