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What If People Cannot Afford a COBRA Alternative?

The economy is in the worst situation in over 30 years and people who cannot afford expensive COBRA benefits need a COBRA alternative. Some say that things have not been worse since the Great Depression. Analysts expect the unemployment numbers to rise to levels of anywhere from 9 to 10% of the population. When anyone loses a job, finding a new position and surviving financially are most important on the list of priorities. Where does health insurance fit into this picture?

Budgeting health insurance premiums into a reduced paycheck can be difficult at best. Obviously, people need a place to live and food; however, one night in a hospital can end up costing several thousand dollars. This creates a difficult dilemma for those who are unemployed. Where do people go to find help? Here are a few options people can consider when faced with a difficult situation like unemployment:

· People need to look at their income and expenses. Putting it all down on paper can help a person identify if there is any money left in their budget to include a health insurance premium. If there is room for health insurance, that is good news.

· If there is any room in the budget for health insurance, seek the advice of a professional. Friends can be a source for referrals. Their advice can lead to meeting a trustworthy ally for insurance needs. Call the recommended agents as well as others. Contact professional associations who sometimes offer insurance at a discount. Check with the state Medicaid office to see if that is an option.

· Before meeting with any agent, decide what the priorities are for an insurance policy. Is it more important to have prescription drug coverage? Is there a need to cover doctor visits? Sometimes the most inexpensive policies cover catastrophic hospitalization for accidents and illnesses only.

· Set up a meeting with an agent. While there, make sure every question on the list is answered. The agent will discuss insurance needs based on the information presented to him or her.

· Possible options that can reduce premiums include temporary health insurance, higher deductibles, HMOs, and PPO plans. Temporary insurance policies last anywhere from 6 to 18 months. These policies often have several exclusions that permanent policies do not have such as pregnancy, but their main benefit is that they are inexpensive. Membership in an HMO or a PPO is usually less expensive than traditional insurance policies, yet they have good coverage for the price. Increasing deductibles reduces insurance premiums.
Ultimately the unemployed person is the only one who can decide what the best option is for his or her situation. The only option may be to go without health insurance, but only as a last resort for survival.