* Look for options cheaper than COBRA. (You can start at ehealthinsurance.com.) It's unlikely, but still worth a look. Pollack cautions consumers to look at all the costs involved. A low premium may come with high co-pays and deductibles.
For healthy, young individuals who anticipate few medical costs, the price of a high-deductible plan may be a smart option, says Karyn Schwartz, a senior policy analyst with the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured in Washington, D.C.
* If you simply cannot afford insurance of any kind, look for healthcare options in your area. Community clinics and health centers offer care on a sliding scale based on income -- and may be free, if you can't afford to pay. Contact the California Primary Care Assn. ( 895-0808 or www.cpca .org) for referrals to community centers and clinics.
And the picture could ultimately change. President-elect Barack Obama's economic recovery program could include ways to help people pay for COBRA as well as expand the number of people eligible for Medicaid.