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12 Ways to Get Health Insurance

If you're sick and don't have an insurance policy, you may feel sort of "locked out" of the health insurance market. Althought it's true that in many cases it seems impossible to find coverage - or just unaffordable to buy health insurance when you have a "pre-existing condition," there are indeed many practical ways for you to find coverage for yourself or your family to ease the burden of hefty medical bills.


Strategies for those without insurance


1. Find a new job which offers a group health insurance plan.
Now, as it isn't always simple to just go out and find a job which offers you insurance, especially when your illness prevents you from working. But securing group coverage is often your best shot at quickly accessing affordable health insurance. Once you become eligible for an employer's group health plan, which may include a standard waiting period, you must be accepted into the plan with the same coverage as other employees; a group plan cannot always exclude your pre-existing conditions like an individual private-market might be able to do.


2. If you're married, have your husband or wife get a job which offers a group health plan.
If number one isn't working for you, or it isn't feasible for you to find a new job with benefits, perhaps your husband or wife could. Adding your self to a spouses plan as a dependent could still gain you the benefits of group health rates and in most cases you cannot be excluded due to pre-existing conditions.


3. Start your own business.
If number two also doesn't work for you or it's just not your style, starting your own business may offer you the ability to achieve a similar result. Sometimes your local Chamber of Commerce may offer group health benefits to its members. By starting a viable business and joining the Chamber of Commerce, you could buy into a Chamber group health plan if offered.


4. Purchase an individual insurance plan on the private market
While you aren't likely to find a plan to cover your pre-existing condition, you may be able to find one for most medical visits. Health insurance carriers might be willing to sell you a health plan that excludes your condition (called an "elimination rider"). This would still cover most treatments provided they are unrelated to your pre-existing condition. Though not ideal, going this route will still allow you to secure partial coverage.


5. Turn Age Sixty Five (65)
Once you turn 65 you are eligible for Medicare coverage. Medicare can't exclude your pre-existing conditions from coverage. Restrictions vary depending on your state, so be sure to do a littleedue diligence on your own to be sure you're going to covered.


6. Purchase what's called a "guaranteed issue" plan
The following states require that health insurance companies to offer all or some of their health plans to individuals regardless of pre-existing conditions: California, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oreon, Rhose Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virgina, according to the Henry Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). For more information about your state's laws, visit


7. Be a "group of one"
Some states require that health insurance companies offer guaranteed issue group plans to small groups. "Guaranteed issue" means that your group cannot be turned down for any reason, even if the group has unhealthy members with pre-existing conditions.


Now here's where you may be in luck: Some states mandate that those plans be offered to groups as small as one, such as self-employed individuals. That means that by creating your own "group of one," you may have access to a group health plan. Laws vary by state and sometimes your "group" has only a small window each year to enroll. For example, in Florida, health insurers are required to offer guaranteed issue basic or standard plans to the self-employed during a one-month annual open enrollment period, according to KFF. To see whether your state has such a law, see KFF's KFF is the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit, private operating foundation focusing on the major health care issues facing the U.S., as well as the U.S. role in global health policy.


8. Prepare to join the "high risk pool"
Most states offer a "high risk health insurance pool," but you have to be eligible. Rules vary by state, but generally you must show that you've been turned down for an individual plan or offered only plans with "elimination riders" or very high premiums. High risk pools typically have waiting periods of six to 12 months before coverage kicks in, and some may have waiting lists which are longer.


Special Circumstances

9. Individuals with low income
All states administer a Medicaid program to provide health coverage to folks with low incomes. Rules vary by state. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has more information.


10. Parents with low income
You don't always have to be a child to take advantage of coverage through your State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), but you do have to meet low-income and other requirements. Some states have extended the boundaries of these programs by allowing parents of eligible children and pregnant women to join, too. Connecticut, for example, extends SCHIP to parents, relatives and caregivers of the eligible child in its HUSKY Plan.


To find out your state's SCHIP rules, visit


11. For those facing job loss or divorce
The federal COBRA law may come to your rescue if you find yourself uninsured because of certain events, such as the loss of your job or the death of a spouse who held group health coverage. COBRA entitles you to continue to buy the group health plan (at your own expense) if you would otherwise lose group health coverage because of job loss, reduced hours at work, divorce, death of a spouse or other "qualifying events." For more, read Know your COBRA rights.


A Slim Chance

12. Join an Alumni or professional group
Sometimes an alumni or similar association will offer a group health insurance plan to its members. This would allow you to obtain coverage regardless of your health condition. Robert Zirkelbach, spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group of health insurers, says these groups often don't fare well because they tend to attract a high number of sick individuals who, as a sick group, push up the rates and ultimately cause the group to collapse.


While an individual within a group can't be charged higher rates, a unhealthy group overall will be charged more than a healthier group. If your health insurance group is attracting a higher proportion of people with a lot of doctor bills, your insurance premiums could go through the roof.


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