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Cobra and HIV+ immigrant spouse
Mar 13, 2006

Hello, I am an American citizen and I have an HIV+ spouse who is Kenyan. We are currently living in Kenya but are trying to move to the US. You probably know that in order for my husband to get an HIV waiver, we must show proof that my husband is insured and has a doctor lined up in the US to care for him.

I am trying to find out if there are any private insurance plans we could qualify for and afford in the US. We do not have jobs in the US yet, but are looking and would hopefully find jobs once we moved to the US.

However, I am currently employed by a US institution that has a project in Kenya and thus have the option of using COBRA once my contract ends Mar. 31st. My husband has his own health insurance thru his employer in Kenya. My question is, is COBRA a good option for us to use as temporary health insurance for the both of us (namely, him)?

Also, if you can comment, with its limit of 18? months would COBRA be acceptable to the US consulate in Kenya as proof of coverage or do we have to have a permanent/long term health insurance plan?

Is there anyway to postpone our COBRA coverage until the time we actually move to the US? i.e. have the 18 months start upon arrival? I don't think so, but thought I would ask. Because of processing time, we may not be able to move to the US (if we are even allowed) until October or after.

Any help you can provide in finding health insurance would be great.

Thank you very much.

Response from Ms. Franzoi

You will have the right to take COBRA coverage for 18 months from the date your coverage ends on March 31. How COBRA works - qualifying events, election periods, length of coverage, etc. - is governed under the federal law that created COBRA so these "date" can't be changed. There are situations when COBRA coverage can be extended up to 29 months (if determined to be disabled by the SSA definition of disability within the first 60 days of coverage) or 36 months (divorce, cease be eligible as a child dependent).

In order for your husband to be eligible for COBRA coverage, he will have to be covered under your plan at the time your coverage ends or, if he remains on his current plan and then loses his coverage during your 18-month period, you could add him on as a dependent for the balance of the 18 months.

I do not know if the US Consulate in Kenya would accept COBRA as proof of coverage. If the consulate raises this concern, you could advise him that at the end of the 18-month COBRA continuation period, your husband would be able to purchase a HIPAA policy.

Obtaining an individual policy (other than a HIPAA policy once COBRA runs out) would be difficult in the US.

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