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In a shocking blow to its long-time employees, General Motors (GM) announced it will not provide its retirees health care benefits. Without a back-up plan, these baby boomers risk joining the 47 million uninsured Americans. Here are five alternative strategies to getting group rates when the boss won’t pay.

Consider joining, if you haven’t already, an alumni association, professional organization, religious group or trade union, since many offer group insurance to members. Group rates may offer a potential savings of up to 50% versus individual plans.

The advice here is not to enroll in, say, law school and take out a $100,000 student loan just to gain access to the university’s group health policy. But what about signing up for one or two evening courses at a local college? Many schools are known to extend their group insurance rates to both full and part-time students. Consider paying $300 a semester or $75 a month for a class to be eligible for the school’s group rates.

A Merrill Lynch New Retirement Study from 2006 found more than 70% of boomers say they will continue to hold a job after retiring. Borders (BGP), Costco (COST), Gap (GPS), Petco, Whole Foods (WFMI) and dozens of retail outlets offer exceptional health care benefits to both full and part-time employees. They’re also becoming a popular option for retirees who want to keep busy in the golden years and pay less for benefits. Visit our recent story on the various benefits offered by nationwide retail chains here.

This is merely a temporary solution, but a popular one, with some five million Americans participating in a COBRA plan at a given time. After leaving the job, retirees (among other qualifying people) are eligible to extend their health care coverage at a group rate through COBRA, which stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The coverage can last up to 18 months for most qualifying persons. In some instances COBRA will also protect your spouse and children for up to three years. Note that this is not necessarily a cheap way to go. A 2006 survey found COBRA costs individuals some $9,900 a year. While it’s generally less expensive than an individual plan, still shop around and compare individual rates online. Some popular sites include and

Your country or district may have some free medical clinics for the underinsured or those without any health coverage. The Department of Health and Human Services at is a great site to find a free medical clinic or camp in your area. There are also retail clinics that charge a flat fee and offer a limited number of minor checkups, such as a throat check or an eye exam.

Catch more of Farnoosh’s advice on Real Simple. Real Life. on TLC, Friday nights at 8 p.m.