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his employer covering one-fourth of the premiums. This greatly reduces the risk that his ongoing medical bills could bankrupt his family. Moreover, the part-time schedule lets him easily schedule doctor’s appointments and treatments, so working hasn’t been detrimental to his health.

“It’s really been, for me and my family, the answer,” Daly said.

However, “avoiding a break in coverage by maintaining COBRA was the big thing,” Daly notes. Because he was continuously insured, his new plan kicked in as soon as he was on the job. If he had let his coverage lapse, he may have had to wait for his cancer treatments to be covered.

There are other options for people with children younger than 19—Medicaid and CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The programs are administered by the states within broad federal guidelines. While they vary by state, CHIP or Medicaid generally are available to children in families earning up to about 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

If your children qualify, it may make sense to cover them through CHIP or Medicaid and look into other programs for the adults in the household. That’s because the premiums tend to be fairly low, says Schwartz.

Some state insurance programs are not well known, so it pays to do some digging, says the Foundation for Health Coverage Education’s Lebherz. For instance, at least one state will pick up a portion of your premiums if you lost your job because your employer moved to China, he notes.

Private Health Insurance

Another option is buying insurance in the individual market, just as you purchase coverage for your home or car. However, it’s usually most affordable for younger people in good health, says Kelly Fristoe, owner of the Financial Partners insurance agency in Wichita Falls, Texas. In 2005, nearly half of adults without health problems found it difficult to find affordable individual coverage, reports the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation promoting health care reform.

Annual premiums for individual coverage for people ages 50 to 54 averaged $3,628, rising to $5,090 for those 60 to 64 years old, according to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), an industry group. Even so, about nine of 10 individuals who apply for individual coverage are accepted, according to a 2007 study by AHIP. A range of plans is available, including high-deductible plans with lower premiums, says Ellen Laden, a spokesperson for insurance provider United Healthcare.

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