Dominating the news, lately: the Republicans vs. the Democrats, determining the fate of the health care system of our country, and debating the President’s signature issue of universal health care for all Americans.

Ohio voters have a strong-spoken advocate, Republican John Boehner, who is arguing the Republican position that the Democrats’ suggested reforms will be too expensive, not economically sustainable, and will equate to a massive government-controlled bureaucracy.

But how does this affect workers at a local level?

In Columbus, Ohio, some of those who are most affected are middle-aged men. Studies and research show that these men are facing levels of unemployment that they haven’t seen before; these men, aged 50-60, are being laid off at a time when they are often major breadwinners for their families, who depend on their employer-sponsored benefits.

Rates of unemployment in Columbus are similar to the national average, but with employers such as GM closing plants (in Ontario) statistics can “hit home” as educated and skilled workers are laid off. Even more difficult, these men are fighting younger workers, often willing to accept lower salaries, in the job market. The consequences can be very difficult for both these men, searching but not finding jobs, and for their families.

So are there any solutions for affordable health insurance in Ohio? There are; some of these families are benefiting from the government’s program that extends unemployed workers’ health benefits an additional nine months, through COBRA. In fact, this extension of benefits is one of the issues that is currently up for debate in Congress; it’s one Ohio voters should pay attention to, and anyone who has lost their job since September of 2008 should be sure to inquire of their employer about the benefits still available through the company.

Columbus is actually the home to the Ohio Department of Insurance, a government agency that provides regulation and education to consumers regarding their options for insurance; they give the approval for every Ohio health insurance plan and regulate Ohio state health insurance quotes. The good news: the list of insurers, for Ohio citizens, available for download through this department’s website, includes over 2000 companies. But consumers looking for low cost Ohio health insurance (especially if they are between jobs) need not do all the comparison shopping for these companies on their own.

The first step laid-off workers should take, if they do not have the option of employer-sponsored coverage, is to determine what is most crucial for their family or situation: prescription drug coverage, network doctors, or at the minimum, coverage for catastrophic illness or accident. A simple internet search provides fairly comprehensive results (try typing in “Ohio Health Insurance Quotes” or “Health Insurance Columbus Ohio”). Keep in mind that by keeping the search local, you are more likely to find doctors in the network whom you’re already familiar with, and in-network doctors almost always mean cost savings.

One positive that the national debate has created: insurance companies and agents today understand the importance of providing a range of affordable health insurance options. A good agent or site can provide side-by-side comparisons, ranking the items most important to the consumer.

Until the economy improves, this do-it-yourself researching opportunity (with the help of the sites who have sprung up to help) may be Columbus residents’ best option.



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