Obtaining Health Insurance Through A New Employer
If you are able to work, one of the methods of obtaining health insurance in spite of your health condition is to go to work for an employer that provides health insurance benefits to employees.
Although no law requires employers to offer health insurance, several federal laws (and similar state laws), enable you to take advantage of a new employer's health insurance benefit.
Pre employment health questions
The road to getting health insurance from an employer is cleared by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which forbids an employer to ask you any health questions before making you a job offer. The only question is whether you can perform the job.
To learn how to handle interviews and what to do if a potential employer does ask health questions, see:The Job Interview.
Health coverage after starting work: The probationary period
Once you have the job, there can be delays before you have full health coverage. You should be able to learn about this during the interview process when you learn about an employer's benefits.
The first delay comes from the fact that employers are permitted to hire new employees on probation. While there is no legal limit on the amount of time probation can last, it is seldom longer than 3 months. The general rule is that employers do not offer any health benefits to employees during the probationary period. If health insurance is offered during that time, you must be treated like all other employees in a similar position regardless of your health condition.
During this period you can find health coverage through a short term health insurance policy. Health insurance companies which sell short term health insurance tend to deny coverage for people with an existing health condition. However, you may find a company that will provide coverage but exclude your existing health condition. At least you will have coverage in case something else happens -- and also have coverage for your family. (For additional information, see Starting Work For A New Employer and At Work)
Health Coverage at work: After the probationary period ends
After the probationary period, the primary law which governs your right to health insurance is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, (HIPAA).
- Eligibility Each employer can determine on a non-discriminatory basis who is eligible for health insurance. Usually this means an active, full-time employee who is a member of the class to which health insurance is offered. For example, if coverage is offered only to employees who work on the factory floor, people who act as shipping clerks will not be covered since they are not members of that class. Some large employers offer health insurance to part time employees.
- Guarantee If you become eligible for group health insurance at your job, you cannot be refused that insurance because of a medical condition or health history. This guarantee only applies to health insurance. It does not apply to dental and vision insurance although they are often offered as a package with health insurance. As noted in the next paragraph, the guarantee does not mean that that expenses relating to a pre-existing health condition will be covered starting the first day the insurance takes effect.
- Pre-Existing Conditions Waiting Period
- If you sign up when you are first eligible for an employer's health insurance, the employer can impose an exclusion for pre-existing conditions, but only for up to 12 months from the date you enroll.If you delay enrolling pas the date you are first eligible for an employer's health insurance, the employer can impose a waiting period of up to 18 months from the effective date of coverage.
- During the pre-existing conditions waiting period any other claims you have for any health matter other than the pre-existing condition will be covered.For example, if you have a history of stomach cancer and you break a leg, the broken leg will be covered while any claims relating to stomach cancer will not be until the end of the pre-existing condition waiting period.
Employers are permitted to determine whether to offer benefits other than health insurance to people with a pre-existing health condition. However, when employers offer group life insurance or long term disability insurance to employees, they generally do notask questions about health conditions -- at least not for the amount of coverage which is basic under the plan. There may be health questions if you choose additional coverage. (For example, if each employee has a right to $10,000 in life insurance, there are likely to be medical questions if you request $30,000 in coverage.)
- If you qualify for union membership, you may also be able to obtain health insurance by joining a union. The protections, and therefore the information and advice, about joining a union is essentially the same as joining an employer.
- For other means of obtaining health insurance despite an existing health condition, click here.