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It's been a week since I lost my job.

What do I do now? What happens to my health insurance? Do I get to keep it or do I have to find other insurance? My wife is a stay at home Mom and I have two young children. Can I even afford health insurance now that I don't have an income? I guess I'll find out!

The first call that I make is to my existing health insurance company. After about 10 minutes of hold time and pushing numerous buttons to get myself into what I believe is the right department, I finally get a live person and explain my circumstances. Her name was Hope and she said she was happy to assist me. After providing her with a few different forms of identification, she begins to tell me that they haven't received any information from my employer that informed them that I am no longer with the company. She said that in order for them to send me the COBRA offering of coverage, they need formal notification that I left the company. After talking with her, I decided I would contact my former employer to request that they send the proper notification of my termination of employment to the insurance company so I could get my offer of coverage. I left a message and didn't get a returned call. I called again and I was told that they were in the process of notifying the insurance company. A week later, I called the insurance company and they told me that they had just received the notice of termination from my employer. They were in the process of sending me my COBRA offering. I waited 2 weeks and still no offer of coverage. I called the insurance company again. They said it was already mailed out to me. I explained that I didn't receive it. I asked them if it was something that they could email and they said no that it had to be mailed because if I wanted to accept the offer of coverage, they would need my signature along with my first payment. They reconfirmed my mailing address and vowed to send the information to me again. I received it this time in about 5 days. I had no idea what I was looking at when I briefly read through all of the pages. I was overwhelmed to say the least! I did see a spot to sign and date and it did come with a return envelope. I decided I'd wait until I had the mental capacity maybe later in the day when I could sit down, relax and enjoy a glass of chardonnay while I read and absorbed this pile of papers. After spending about 30 minutes, I understood the basics of what was being offered to me. It explained that I could continue this group coverage for me and my family for $1,500 per month. All I needed to do was sign, date and submit payment to initiate this coverage and I had about 2 months to do it or I would lose this opportunity. $1,500, are they kidding me? I no longer have a job! I have no income! Do they seriously think I can afford that? There must be a mistake. I called the insurance company again and this time I ask to speak with Hope. I was told that she was unavailable. I explained what I had received and I was told that there was no mistake. This was the cost of the insurance that included all four of my family members. I hung up the phone in serious disbelief and great frustration. There had to be another way.

With my resourceful skills, I turned to the internet and Googled, health insurance. I realized I was getting health insurance information from other states than where I lived in California, so I further refined my search. There I found a website where I could get my own quotes. I independently began to enter in my family date of birth information and residence zip code. To my surprise, I received 121 plan options available to me and my family offered by various health insurance companies. The price ranges were less expensive than my COBRA offering to downright unaffordable for even the most affluent individuals. After the overwhelming number of options and not really knowing what I was looking at in terms of benefit, I decided I'd take advantage of the 800 number and just call for more information and assistance. I really didn't know what I was looking at and I wanted to make a conscious decision. My first call was answered by what sounded like a 14 year old girl. I explained my situation and after 3 questions, she effortlessly directed me to a plan as if it was the perfect choice out of over 100 options. It was a plan that didn't include any office visit coverage until after I met an annual deductible. I didn't really care for that especially since I have 2 young children but none the less, she insisted the plan offered great value. Then she went on to explain about the no charge annual physical exams. She said this was the plan for me and that I could just go online and apply. It was fast, simple and easy! I ended the call. Could this really be the plan for me and my family? I was reluctant.

I visited another website and called. This time it sounded like my call was answered by someone who was more interested if any family members had any pre-existing conditions rather than what my preferences were in a plan I was looking for. I hung up quick with that one. Another call I made, I was told that they had to go because I exceeded their time limit that they could spend on the phone with one call. They said they would send me an email which I never received. Another call I made was for sure a boiler room type operation. I could hear other voices in the background talking about benefits and rates. I just didn't feel comfortable with anyone that I spoke to that day. I made a total of 12 different phone calls to twelve different companies that day. I got discrepancies on the plan benefits and a different plan recommendation. I was even told that even after I apply, I could get denied because of a pre-existing condition or I could pay a higher rate. Not my kids though. I was told they'd be protected by the law and that only my wife and I could be denied coverage. Working for years, I never had to pay for or worry about my family health insurance. Now I was forced into either accepting the huge price tag which was financially devastating or learn to become informed and find the right person to determine which plan was right for me. I had to continue with my job search and now also research benefits in order to make the best decision for my family. I began to dive in.

I found that the benefits are changing now because of health care reform. You're actually being offered a little more benefit now with the no charge preventive services. You're also given maternity coverage whether you need it or want it. All plans include it now. The prices are all on the rise (thank you health care reform) and I recently learned that the average daily hospital stay without insurance is about $10,000 per day. Going without insurance should never be an option. The more you can accept higher out of pocket costs (higher copayments, coinsurance and deductibles), the lower your monthly payments will be.

In the midst of my research, I have come to the conclusion that it's time for everyone to be involved in their healthcare choices including insurance options. In order to make an informed choice, you need an individual that you can talk to and that will listen. You need someone who understands that your options are unique and that knows how to help you narrow down your options. You need someone who doesn't get paid by the application submitted or that works in a boiler room. You need someone who is professional and has your best interest at heart. That individual works for your family and knows how to navigate the complexities within the ever changing healthcare system to maximize your healthcare spending dollars. Most of all, you need someone that is willing to take the time and help you understand those benefits.

I found Debbie at CaliforniaHealthInsuranceNow.com. She is and will always be my family's Health Insurance Specialist. She has personally made herself available to me and I value her professionalism and expertise. There is no way that I could have found a plan on my own with all of the options available. Her efforts were thorough, consistent and logical. She did not favor one company over another. She found a plan based on my needs. She answered all of my questions and if there was something she didn't know, she would get back to me. I am happy to say that I am now employed. I ended up accepting my employer's health insurance since my employer pays for me 100%. I kept the insurance for my spouse and my children on the family plan that Debbie recommended, because it was less expensive than what I would have had to pay for since my employer won't pay for theirs. That would have been my expense and believe me, it was very expensive since it was group coverage. So I'm earning more take home pay and paying less for my insurance overall. I have Debbie in my corner and with the personalized assistance that she offers; I no longer have to call anyone else.
Thank you Debbie!

California's Most Popular Plans
Health Insurance California

Blue Cross Clear Protection Plan

The ClearProtection Plus plan offered by Anthem Blue Cross is one of the lowest priced Individual PPO health insurance plans available in California. This plan is very popular for those who rarely go to the doctor and for those who are looking to protect themselves from a major catastrophic event like hospitalization. This product gives you the best of both worlds. It gives you the essential benefits you need at a very affordable price.

Health Net PPO Plans

These two plans are the lowest priced PPO plans that Health Net offers. These are not just popular major medical insurance plans because of the price, but for the comprehensive benefits they provide. They include the no charge annual physical exams and they have a limitation to the number of office visits per calendar year. They have a higher coinsurance percentage and overall higher out of pocket costs to keep the premiums affordable.

Cigna HSA PPO Plans

These moderately high deductible health plans (HDHP) allow you to use them in conjunction with a health savings account (hsa) that you establish at your bank. With regular deposits (subject to maximum annual contribution limits defined by the federal government), the health savings account will pay for those smaller medical expenses such as doctor visit copayments and prescription drug copayments.

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