Here are some ways to find dependable help:
• Pay what you can. The Department of Health and Human Services provides assistance through federally funded health centers. You pay what you can afford based on your income level. The services include everything from preventive care to dental work. Click here for more information.
• Find an advocate. When you get laid off and lose your health insurance, you may need someone in your corner. Several groups specialize in helping people find affordable insurance and free care, including: Coverage for All, Ehealthinsurance, Healthcare Advocacy, Patient Advocate Foundation and Patient Services Incorporated.
• Get prescription drug help. If you can't afford health insurance, or if your insurance doesn't include good prescription drug benefits, look for $4 generic drugs at many major supermarkets and drug store chains. Also, your state may offer a discount drug program. You can also check these private groups that offer prescription assistance: Chronic Disease Fund, FamilyWize discount drug card, HealthWell Foundation, Needy Meds, Partnership for Prescription Assistance, Rx Assist and Rx Hope.
• COBRA. If you're voluntarily or involuntarily laid off from your job, or if you experience a large reduction in work hours, you may be eligible for COBRA, a program that allows you to keep your employer's insurance. But there's one big catch: You have to pay the premium in its entirety, which can sometimes be upwards of $1,000 per month. As part of the congressional stimulus package passed earlier this year, people who involuntarily lost their jobs can have the government pay 65 percent of their COBRA premiums. Several rules apply. For more information, go the Department of Labor's Web site.