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Laid Off? 10 Health Care Tips

From COBRA to Private Health Insurance to Coping With Stress, Here's What to Do

4. Got kids?

Find out about your state's children's health insurance program (SCHIP). If you meet certain financial standards, your children may be eligible for coverage through SCHIP. Contact your state health department to find out.

5. Know your rights about pre-existing conditions.

If you join a new group health insurance plan -- either through your spouse or partner's plan or in a new job -- you can't be denied coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions, but you may have a waiting period of up to a year in certain situations; the rules are posted on the Department of Labor's web site.

Private health insurance companies can deny your application for coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

6. Can't get private health insurance?

Look into whether your state has a high-risk pool.

"That is for individuals who have medical conditions or have difficulty getting coverage -- several states have set up what are called high-risk pools that allow those individuals to purchase coverage," Zirkelbach tells WebMD.

7. Tell your doctor about the layoff.

It's important for your doctor to know about the things in your life that are affecting you, notes Robert Schwartz, MD, professor and chairman of the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Schwartz tells WebMD that he has many patients dealing with layoffs, from manual laborers to corporate vice presidents, and others who are worried about losing their jobs.

"It's a very significant problem," says Schwartz. "Negative stress ... can be very detrimental to people's well-being."

Your doctor can also help you check on ways to lower your drug costs and other medical expenses.

People who have to do the firing also may be "under tremendous stress" and feel "guilt-ridden and conflicted about their own role" in layoffs, notes Schwartz.

8. Be aware of what stress may do to you.

"How people cope with this type of stress is very variable from one person to the other," says Schwartz.

"Some people start overeating, some people stop their healthy routines like exercise, some people have difficulty sleeping," he says, adding smoking and drinking to that list. "All of these affect our state of well-being."

In some cases, stress can lead to heart palpitations, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, or worsening of pre-existing conditions, notes Schwartz.

9. Get perspective, and get active.

"The first step is to help people understand ... that they're dealing with common problems," says Schwartz. "Then we talk about coping mechanisms."

Schwartz's list of helpful coping strategies includes exercise, taking a proactive approach to job seeking, and volunteering.

"I'm very much of the mind-set to get people out and doing things," Schwartz says. "People sometimes are so shocked by losing their job that they become unable to even start looking for another job."

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