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COBRA, Medicare, No job, and HIV...
Jun 4, 2012

I have had HIV for over 20 years. A few years ago I was on disability receiving social security in my early thirties. I was also on Medicare part A and B. When I went back to work and was no longer receiving social security disability benefits, I was receiving health benefits from my employer. I called Medicare to tell them that I didn't need part B because I was working with benefits and they wanted to charge me a monthly premium. I filled out their form and cancelled it, not realizing the structure of the penalty.

Well, to make a long story short. I have been paying over $550 a month premium for COBRA benefits while looking for another job for the past 10 months. The economy is very bad right now, and I have applied to many, many jobs without luck. I am about to run out of money, some of which has been from a student loan for graduate school, and I just don't know where to turn. How do I continue my health benefits when I can no longer afford COBRA and I cannot find a job? Do I need to file another social security disability claim? I really need some advice on what to do because I know if I do not get my meds, I will be in bad shape.

Response from Mr. Chambers

I'll try to help you as much as I can. Taking the last first, see if you are eligible for ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) in your state. Based on the state you live in and your income, they can provide substantial help with your medications.

You should also contact your local AIDS Service Organization. There are states that use a portion of their Ryan White funding to pay health insurance premiums. If so, see if you qualify for assistance; if so, they may be able to pay your COBRA premiums.

Are you still on Medicare Part A - Hospital Benefit? You may need to call 800-MEDICARE to find out. If so, ask about enrolling in Part B. If you are losing your employer based health insurance involuntarily, you are eligible to enroll in Part B - Medical Insurance without a late enrollment penalty.

Depending on how long you have been working, assuming there are also some health issues that limit your ability to work in addition to the economy, you may be eligible for an Expedited Enrollment back into Social Security. If you have been away from benefits, you may need to reapply.

Should you not be eligible for Medicare, and you lose your COBRA because of cost, you should check to see what public clinics might be available to provide your treatment.

Meanwhile, keep looking for work and hang in there. Good luck, Jacques in your state.



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