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Three alternatives to COBRA coverage

If you've recently lost your job or are soon to be unemployed, you're going to want to know your health insurance options. One you might qualify for is COBRA, the federal law that allows you to temporarily continue your employer-sponsored health plan, usually in the event of some form of layoff.

COBRA might be the right choice for certain people, but the coverage can be expensive. Under COBRA you are responsible for the premium that was previously subsidized by your employer, in addition to a 2 percent administrative fee.

If you are relatively healthy, there might be cheaper alternatives. EHealthInsurance, an online seller of health insurance, offers these options:

Mix and match. If you have a pre-existing condition, choose COBRA coverage for yourself but look around for a less expensive individual plan for your spouse or child.

Think long term. You might be able to find an individual or family health insurance plan that suits your needs for less than COBRA, especially if you are seeking coverage beyond the COBRA term, which usually is 18 months.

Save on the kids' insurance. If your children are about to lose their dependent status, consider short-term plans to carry them through the transition to college or a new job.

Marshall Loeb, MarketWatch

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