February 13, 2009
Posted: 12:45 PM ET
In January, according to the Labor Department, over a half-million Americans lost their jobs. For many, that means they are also losing their health insurance. Negotiating with doctors and hospitals is just one thing you have to learn how to do when your insurance disappears, says Steve Luptak, executive director of an assistance group called Healthcare Advocacy. "I've had so many people who've just been laid off coming to me for help because they've lost their insurance. They're so stressed, they're so depressed, they feel like it's the end of the world," he says. "But there are things you can do. It's not a futile situation," he says. Watch for more tips for the uninsured »
If you want to try to get new, affordable insurance, or find programs that offer you financial help for doctor visits, prescription drugs and more, follow these steps:
Step 1: Get good advice
When you get laid off and lose your health insurance, you may need someone in your corner. Several places specialize in helping people find new, affordable insurance and free care:
Step 2: Search for affordable insurance
With advice from experts at the groups above, begin your search for affordable insurance. Start with COBRA, which means you continue with your employer's insurance, except now you're paying the entire premium on your own. You can learn about COBRA at the Department of Labor's Web site.
If you can't afford to go on COBRA, you're in good company; a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund found that only 9 percent of people who are offered COBRA actually use it. Sometimes it's less expensive to buy your own insurance policy rather than going on COBRA. You can compare prices at ehealthinsurance.com.
Step 3: Get your child on SCHIP
There are other government programs, too. Your entire family may qualify for insurance from a state high-risk pool if you live in a state that has one.
If you think you might quality for Medicaid, see this state-by-state Medicaid directory.
For more tips, check out my column at CNNHEALTH.com
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Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!