A startling number of Americans continue to have absolutely no health insurance -- neither private nor government coverage. According to a new Census report, the number of people without health insurance increased slightly to 49.9 million in 2010 from 49.0 million in 2009. That's not quite enough of a jump to be statistically significant, but it still points to a troubling health care system in our country.
The weak economy and job drought is largely to blame. Millions still face the challenge of finding a job, let alone one with health benefits. But a full-time job isn't the only way to secure health insurance. If you're seeking to obtain proper coverage, consider these strategies:
Take Advantage of Mom or Dad's Plan
Unmarried adults can stay on a parent's health insurance plan until age 26, thanks to recent passage of the Affordable Care Act. It's a pretty popular alternative: The government expects more than 1 million young adults will opt to tag along a parent's health plan this year. It won't be free, though. The plan will cost an average $3,380 per enrolled dependent, or $282 per month.
My suggestion: Offer to split the cost with your parents.
Piggyback on Your Partner's Plan
Some employer-sponsored health care plans provide coverage for domestic partners. Have your partner check with his or her company's human resources department to learn about qualifications. Do your homework, though; this may not always be the most affordable option.
A friend of mine told me that while she gets free health insurance from her employer, it would cost approximately $600 a month to add her husband to her plan. At that rate, it might be cheaper for him to buy his own individual health insurance plan.
Look into Trade Group Benefits
Many state and national trade associations -- from medical and bar associations to chambers of commerce -- offer members access to group health insurance plans. It won't be free, but the benefits may end up outweighing the cost of the group's annual membership fee.
If you work for a small business that doesn't offer health benefits, see if your boss will consider signing up the business with a local professional organization, many of which are also extending benefits to small business workers. For example, the Gasoline Retailers Association of Florida, which represents independent gas retailers, convenience stores, gasoline Service stations and repair shops throughout Florid, provides some health benefits to members.
Work Part-Time in Retail
While you push to find a full-time job in finance or teaching, you may be interested to know that retailers like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Starbucks offer comprehensive benefits to both their full- and part-time employees. It's not a bad way to ride out the corporate hiring freeze -- and of course, you'll be bringing in income as well.
Note that you may need to first work a minimum number of hours before being eligible -- at Whole Foods, it's 400 hours.
Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv and on Twitter/farnoosh.
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