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need surgery, in month 18 of COBRA
Mar 18, 2013

I have been on COBRA from my former employer of 15 years for the last 18 months. I found out yesterday that I am in need of an aortic valve replacement. The cardiologist says this should happen within the next six months. I am 53, HIV positive, and I spent the last year in school, living off of my savings from my previous career. I was in search of a job in my new career (medical assisting) with health insurance coverage, before I found out this news yesterday about the surgery. I don't know what to do... I think I am about to get dropped by my insurance company, and how will I get new insurance with the pending surgery and HIV status? I am trying to stay calm, but this really has me upset... I am more worried about insurance than I am about the open heart surgery. thank you for any guidance or suggestions. Phil in Seattle

Response from Mr. Chambers

Thanks to a federal law, you will be able to stay insured.

You don't mention when your COBRA ends. One, possibly remote, method is to apply for and get Social Security Disability before your COBRA expires. If you get it AND provide a copy of the award to your COBRA administrator within 60 days of getting it, your COBRA will be extended up to 11 more months, although the premium will jump 50%. Since it is currently taking 4 - 6 months to get Social Security Disability, that option may be too late for you.

The alternative is under a federal law called HIPAA. If you take your COBRA as long as you legally can, once your COBRA ends, you will be able to purchase a health insurance plan regardless of your medical condition, as long as you purchase the insurance within 63 days of your COBRA ending.

Depending on what state you live in, you are eligible to either join the state's pooled plan or you may be able to purchase a plan directly from a health insurance carrier. This site will tell you how it works in your state. This site

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