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Health Professional, Changing Employers, Medical benefits change?
Jul 24, 2003

Very worried here. I am a speech pathologist. I am currently undergoing the interview process for a new position with an Adventist Healthcare hospital. I have several concerns: 1) I found out that I was HIV+ while at my current employer of 3 1/2 years. I live in Florida. I have excellent PPO benefits. I do know that if I am offered a position at this new Christian hospital, I will need to undergo a "medical evaluation." Does this mean that they will a) ask my HIV status?, if so, should I divulge this info? b) will they draw blood? and c) can they withdrawl their job offer if they find out I am HIV+ by any of the above means? 2) Seeing that this is a Christian hospital, do they have to abide by different anti-discrimination laws? They have over 12,000 employees. I cannot imagine that the could discriminate, however, I am concerned. 3) I currently have medical benefits through my employer. The new job prospect offers their own health insurance through their own hospital. All the literature that human resourses has given me states that I would be eligible for medical benefits after 90 days of employment; however during the interview, the Associate Director, P.M. & R. stated that everyone in the rehab (my) department receives health benefits effective upon hiring. How should, or can I clarify this without putting myself at risk of not being hired? 4) Can the new health coverage decline to cover HIV related treatment because it is a pre-existing condition?

Please help me. I want this job so badly. It has been my dream position since my days in graduate school. I am afraid, however, of messing up the wonderful benefits that I currently have with my present employer. I appreciate any/all help you could offer.


Response from Ms. Breuer

Dear Todd, Let's clear the path to your dream job. Lynn Franzoi and I are teaming on this response to give you answers to all your questions.

1. If the new employer asks your HIV status, or asks a question clearly aimed at such diagnoses, there are ways to deal with the question that maintain your privacy. You are a speech therapist, which means you do not do invasive procedures. Your condition poses no threat to the health of others. Explain that you will be glad to complete the form with your provider, who can then explain that you are under care for a chronic infection that is under control. If they draw blood, they may not test it for HIV without your written consent. If they were to withdraw the job offer based solely on your HIV status, they would be inviting a lawsuit under the ADA.

2. Their status as a Christian hospital does not exempt them from all anti-discrimination law, especially because of their size. We recommend that you not even give them the chance. You are not a surgeon. You will not be plunging your hands and sharp instruments into people's body cavities. Your HIV status is irrelevant and private. Do not lie on insurance forms, but beyond that, assume that questions that are "fishing expeditions" are aimed at protecting the public health, which you don't threaten.

3. Immediate benefits? Terrific! Explain to them that, as you consider the offer, you will need to have all the terms of the offer in writing, including the benefits package, so you can make an informed decision.

4. Here's Lynn's help on question 4: As long as you don't go more than 63 days without coverage (for example, you would elect COBRA during any waiting period the hospital insisted on), HIPAA would require the new employer to recognize prior coverage towards any pre-existing condition exclusion period and as such no pre-existing condition exclusion could be applied because you have been covered for more than 12 months.

In short, your HIV status should be no impediment to your grasping this opportunity! We wish you all the best, and hope you'll let us know how it turns out.

Best regards, Nancy

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