Stimulus Package Offers Health Coverage Lifeline

Ray Rivera lost his job in February and was afraid he would not be able to get health insurance for his wife and two childen. 

"I was actually staring at the ceiling, wondering what I was going to do and how I was going to get some help," Rivera said. He found out about and discovered a way to keep his family covered. 

Close to 20 percent of people living in California don't have health insurance, according to the State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. With the state unemployment near 10 percent, Poizer said, "a lot of people depend on their employer for health insurance, so when they get unemployed, when they are laid off, this impacts their entire family."

That's why California is supporting the nonprofit Web site The site and an Uninsured Help Line (800-234-1317) offers alternatives to people searching for health coverage. 

"It won't be exactly the same, but we want to make sure you get the coverage and there's good coverage out there," said Phil Lebherz, founder of Health Coverage Education, the company that oversees the help line and Web site.

As for the Riveras, they are now paying for COBRA coverage, which continues the health insurance from his employers. The federal stimulus package included a provision that pays 65 percent of COBRA for up to nine months. Rivera also found out his children can receive coverage through a program called Health Families for $15 a month for each child.  Rivera got this information from the Uninsured Help Line.

The California Insurance Commission also offers a hotline for people looking for insurance help: 800-927-HELP.

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