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Should I Change Jobs For Better Security?
Feb 2, 2003

I was infected w/HIV 5/02 and diagnosed HIV+ 12/02. I appear to be a fast progressor. My t-cell is at 209, viral load at 48800. I work at a co. of 60 people that is struggling to grow and currently losing money. I have so far paid health expenses out-of-pocket, rather than use my insurance, to conceal my status. While my health is still intact, should I consider seeking employment w/a public agency or the federal gov't? I fear my current employer may go out of business or contest a long term disability claim should it come to that. If I did change jobs, would I have to disclose my status as a preexisting condition?

Response from Ms. Breuer

This is a great question, and you are so wise to be taking the big picture into account. You don't mention what your line of work is, but you have hit the insurance nail on the head, in my opinion. Yes, you would be wise to seek employment in a more stable situation. Here's how it works, and no, you have no obligation to disclose your "pre-existing condition." That language essentially died with the legislation called HIPAA.

You don't have to confine yourself to a public agency or the federal govt. You probably should consider large employers with large group plans, ideally with a choice of insurance plans so that you can select the best plan for you. When you are ready to make the transition, obtain a certificate of insurance from your present employer, a document that simply states that you are covered by their health insurance plan, and present that at your new employer's benefits office. Your coverage will then be seamless during the transition to the new insurance. Once your new insurance benefit is in place, you should check with the benefits personnel to learn how claims are handled. Ideally, the insurance plan, even if they're self-insured, is administered by a third party that submits summary reports on usage of the plan to the employer. Once you've done that homework, you can start submitting claims and take some pressure off your own pocketbook. Also, if there is an opportunity to sign up for long-term disability insurance, by all means take it, especially if you pay the premiums. (If you pay, the eventual benefit is tax-free.) Finally, if there is an insurance/health questionnaire for the new employer, take it to your physician for help in completing it. Often your physician can provide completely honest answers that do not simply give away your diagnosis. Never lie on an insurance application; if the lie is discovered, the insurance company has the right to cancel your coverage AND force you to pay back premiums.

Congratulations on planning for the best outcome for your health. Now: are you seeing an HIV specialist? It sounds as though you need some well-informed help with your meds.

Thanks for your question, and I wish you the best.

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