The best option isn't always the most obvious. By Kimberly Lankford, Contributing Editor August 1, 2009 YOU HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE You have an employer plan You have individual coverage You have COBRAYOU DON'T HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE You don't have medical issues You have medical issues You have an employer plan If your employer has cut coverage or raised premiums, compare the cost of an individual policy with your group plan. You have individual coverage Advertisement You may be able to find a better deal with another insurer. You have COBRA This federal law lets most people continue group coverage after they leave the group, but the price jumps significantly because you pay the full cost. However, the government is currently paying 65% of COBRA premiums for up to nine months for people who lose their job between September 1, 2008, and December 31, 2009. You qualify for the COBRA subsidy Advertisement You don't qualify for the COBRA subsidy You qualify for the COBRA subsidy COBRA is usually your best bet if you qualify for the subsidy, although it's a good idea to start looking for individual coverage to prepare for when the subsidy ends after nine months. You don't qualify for the COBRA subsidy Advertisement You don't have medical issues. Shop for an individual policy You have medical issues. See whether you can qualify for an individual policy, but COBRA may be your best option. You can stay on COBRA for up to 18 months after leaving your job, or up to 36 months after you no longer qualify for coverage as a dependent (if, for example, you lose coverage because of a divorce or because you're too old to remain on your parents' policy). YOU DON'T HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE You don't have medical issues Advertisement You might be surprised at how good a deal you can get on a health-insurance policy. Get price quotes for individual coverage at eHealthinsurance.com, or from a local agent (find one at www.nahu.org). If you are healthy, you may be able to find an individual policy for less than $250 per month. You can lower your costs by buying a high-deductible policy and opening a health savings account. You have medical issues You may qualify for an individual policy if you shop around. Otherwise, contact your state insurance department about options for people with medical conditions (find links on the insurance page of Kiplinger.com). Thirty-three states have high-risk pools for anyone rejected by private insurers. A few states, including New York and New Jersey, must cover everyone regardless of their health. Also see www.coverageforall.org for help.