She's a woman in McLean with two kids and no husband. Ever since the marriage broke up, she has paid for her family's health insurance. It isn't cheap, and it just got even less so.

Last year, for fairly standard hospitalization and major medical coverage, the woman paid premiums of $3,382. If that takes your breath away, better get ready for another wallop, in the form of the bill the woman just received for the same family coverage this year: $4,500, or an increase of 33 percent.

You might think the premiums rose because the woman submitted a zillion claims last year. Not so. She was healthy all year, and so were both kids.

Alas, a 33 percent bump is standard in the health insurance industry -- if you don't want to join an HMO or reduce the ceilings of your coverage. The McLean woman certainly can't do the latter -- not with two active kids who are still well short of adulthood. And she has no interest in an HMO, for the usual reason. She likes and trusts her present doctors. So do the kids. She would not want to start all over with a strange doctor, or with a doctor who is assigned to her.

So the woman has been jammed between the proverbial rock and the proverbial hard place. She works at home, as an independent contractor, so she can be around when the kids get home from school. But now, "it seems the time has come to add them to the population of 'latchkey kids,' and join a large company just for the medical benefits," the woman writes.

Before she does that, however, the McLean woman asked Levey if there are enough single moms in the same boat to form a group for purposes of group insurance. If so, she wonders, do I know of any agencies that would help the single moms put it all together?

Dianne Bricker at the Medical Society of the District of Columbia had three suggestions for the McLean Mom, and others like her.

1) The Small Business Service Bureau in Worcester, Mass., helps arrange group insurance for employees of small businesses. The McLean woman probably doesn't qualify, since she's self-employed, but other single moms might if they work for companies that are too small to offer health insurance on their own. SBSB's phone number is 508-756-3513.

2) The Association of Part-Time Professionals. This local group specializes in arranging group health insurance for people who work at home. The association's phone number is 703-734-7975.

3) Dianne urges the McLean Mom to make a list of all the hobby groups, professional societies and social groups to which she belongs. Many such organizations offer group health coverage. For example, a writer who belongs to Washington Independent Writers can qualify. For another example, some local ski clubs offer big-ticket health coverage.

The long and the short of it: $4,500 a year (or doing without insurance altogether) are not the only choices.

We've gotten so used to murder and mayhem hereabouts that we could use a break. Bob Rath, of Annandale, provides it, with a clipping sent to him by his grandson, Steve Hutchinson, of Durango, Colo.

According to the clipping, which appeared in the Durango Herald, a sheriff's deputy stopped to assist two people at the intersection of county roads 331 and 330.

Robbery? Burglary? Nope. "They had just stopped to look at a snake in the road," the Herald lets us know.

Here's a sign to give one pause. Tony Brooke, of Arlington, saw it posted inside the main entrance of 1990 K St. NW. It reads:





Sure, sure, we see what they're trying to say. But the difference between "no" and "absolutely no"? About the same as the difference between "pregnant" and "a little bit pregnant."

From Rob Rufsvold, of Springfield:

"In this town so full of lawyers, I have been wondering . . . . Is there any significance to the fact that 'jus' is the Latin word for law and the French word for gravy?"

David Rosenberg, of Woodbridge, asked his 5 1/2-year-old son, Aaron, what Aaron would do if he won scads of money in the latest McDonald's giveaway. Aaron's answer:

"I'd give my Aunt Vicki $1 million because she took me to the fair.

"I'd give Mommy $1 million so she wouldn't have to work and could stay home with me.

"And I'd give Daddy $600 because he already has a job."