Laid off? Consider alternatives to Cobra

If you've recently lost your job, or are soon to be unemployed, you're going to want to know what your health insurance options are. One option you may qualify for is Cobra, the federal law that allows you to temporarily continue your employer-sponsored health plan, usually in the event of some form of layoff.

Cobra may be the right choice for certain people.

If you or someone in your family is pregnant, have a pre-existing health condition or are taking prescription medications, Cobra may be a good option. However, Cobra coverage can be expensive.

Under Cobra you are responsible for the premium that was previously subsidized by your employer in addition to a 2-percent administrative fee.

If you are relatively healthy, there may be cheaper alternatives available to you. EHealthInsurance, an online seller of health insurance, offers these three options:

1. Mix and match Cobra coverage with individual plans. If you have a pre-existing condition, choose Cobra coverage for yourself but look around for a less-expensive, individual plan for your spouse or child.

2. Look for individual or family insurance plans. If you and your family are relatively healthy or are seeking health-insurance coverage beyond the Cobra term, which usually extends for 18 months, you may be able to find an individual or family health-insurance plan that suits your needs for less than Cobra.

3. Save on the kids' insurance. Your children are usually covered under your health plan until they turn 19 and in some cases if they are students until 25. If your kids are about to lose their dependent status, consider looking into short-term plans that will carry them through the transition to college or a new job.

Marshall Loeb is a former editor of Fortune, Money, and the Columbia Journalism Review.

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