Individual health options if you're leaving a job with group benefits

1. Is your spouse receiving health insurance from a different employer? If so, consider switching to that plan when your group benefits end. Your spouse can get cost specifics and enrollment paperwork from his/her employer.

2. Depending on employer size, you can maintain current benefits through COBRA or Illinois Small Group Continuation. COBRA is a federal law that applies to most employers with 20 or more workers and typically lasts 18 months. Illinois Small Group Continuation affects Illinois employers with less than 20 workers and typically lasts 9 months. The employer must forward a written letter detailing cost, how long coverage lasts and a specific date to accept the continuation offer. Continuation plans are expensive because you are responsible for the entire cost plus a small administration fee. Check with your employer for more information.

3. In addition, explore individual health insurance through Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace. There is a 60-day window to obtain coverage when group benefits come to an end. Mid-year enrollment is only allowed in specific circumstances. Losing group health insurance is among the qualifying events. Go to the 'Get Covered Illinois' website to complete the application or find local assistance.

4. Individual health insurance is available outside the Health Insurance Marketplace as well. Contact a local health insurance agent for cost and coverage specifics.

Finally, you can buy short term health insurance coverage. Keep in mind short term plans provide limited coverage with significant out-of-pocket requirements. These policies are not ACA-compliant.