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Return to work?
Aug 29, 2004

I have lived with AIDS now for the last 7 years. My numbers never get better, but they never get worse. I am healthy, have a great attitude and am now considering re-entering the work field. Due to my condition, I cannot assume the same type of field that I was previously in due to too many hours and stress. I am currently on SSDI and had a disability insurance policy when I left work, so I am not as bad off as others. I am also covered under medicare. I receive my meds through ADAP.

My question is where do I start? My number 1 priority is to make sure that my health coverage stays in force. What happens to medicare if I begin a new career? Also, equally important is my meds. How do I maintain my meds while I start a new job and wait for new insurance to kick in? Will my new insurance cover these expenses since I have to reveal to them my pre-existing condition? I need to have these questions answered prior to anything else.

I have no problem learning new job skills and have no doubt that I could obtain a new career. I understand how to explain the gap in my employment. However, I feel that I need to have these answers first before I begin anything.

Any and all answers or places to obtain these answers would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You!

Response from Ms. Breuer

What a great question! Congratulations on your maintenance of your health and your wonderful attitude. That plus information is all you need to succeed in your next job.

First, consult with a benefits counselor about how to preserve what you have now and bridge to a new job. Resources: your local AIDS service organization or www.helpwithbenefits.com. I know the person who runs the Website, and he has a long, stellar history in helping people with HIV with their benefits.

Second, whether your new job will cover your meds is a question only the health plan administrator can answer. When you get a job offer and learn about the health plan, get as much written information as you can. Find out about coverage for meds not by asking your prospective employer, but by calling the plan administrator (the insurance company that runs the plan) and not identifying yourself by name. If they give information only to employees, explain that you're in the process of becoming one.

Third, you do not have to disclose your diagnosis. If you join a company that has a group health plan, often the fact that you're an employee is all you need to be covered. Some plans will send you a health questionnaire, and that form may ask about previous conditions. It cannot legally be used as a reason to withdraw an offer of employment. If it get returned to someone at the insurance company, not to your own employer, then submit it. If it goes to your employer, ask the head of HR what safeguards of medical information are in place before submitting it. That alerts your employer to the fact that you know you have privacy rights. If it doesn't ask directly about HIV, don't volunteer that information. The only rule of thumb in responding to a questionnaire from an insurance company is "don't lie." Lying is insurance fraud, and isn't taken lightly.

Please read the questions and responses at this site about disclosure at work. You do not have to disclose, and if you do, please do it later, not immediately, and with eyes wide open. With your health care provider, you can probably find honest, legal ways to respond to a questionnaire without violating your confidentiality.

I wish you well. Congratulations again.



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