A family awaits treatment at a hospital's emergency room. (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)
If you're self-employed, unemployed or work for a company that doesn't offer medical coverage, you may have to find your own insurance. Some tips to get you started:
•U.S. Uninsured Help Line: This service by the nonprofit Foundation for Health Coverage Education helps people determine their insurance options. Be prepared to answer questions about how many family members need coverage, household income and preexisting medical conditions. Call (800) 234-1317 or go to coverageforall.org.
•COBRA: If you recently left a job where you had health insurance, you can continue your coverage, at your expense, under the federal COBRA program for 18 months. In California, that can be extended for an additional 18 months. COBRA coverage cannot be denied because of a preexisting condition.
•Healthcare.gov: By answering a series of questions at this federal government website, you can get a selection of individual insurance plans. A similar commercial site is EHealthInsurance.
•Independent agents: Your auto or homeowner's insurance broker may offer health insurance. You can also find a licensed agent through the National Assn. of Health Underwriters website.
•Preexisting conditions. The 2010 healthcare reform law made preexisting condition insurance plans available nationally for people who can't get private coverage. To qualify under the federal plan, you must have been without health coverage for at least six months. Information is at http://www.pcip.gov. In California, call (877) 428-5060. Also in this state, you can apply for Major Risk Medical Insurance by calling (800) 289-6574.