Q. I am currently on my former employer's group insurance policy, and was able to maintain the benefits through COBRA. The policy is about to end and I have been trying to "find" another insurance carrier. I have been denied by a few agencies. Is there any advice you can provide?

A.

Because you were covered by a group insurance policy and have exhausted your COBRA coverage, you are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA. This law mandates that people in your situation cannot be denied insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions. However, there are some stipulations: 1) you must present a certificate of creditable coverage to the insurer, which shows that you are HIPAA eligible; 2) you cannot be eligible for government-subsidized insurance such as Medicare or Medicaid; 3) you must apply for a HIPAA plan within 63 days of losing your coverage.

The Cancer Legal Resource Center of the Disability Rights Legal Center has compiled a list of private insurance companies that offer HIPAA policies:

In many states, HIPAA-eligible individuals can buy insurance through high-risk pools, which are state-run programs that offer individual health insurance policies to residents who do not have access to group coverage and who have been denied individual coverage. The National Association of State Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans provides links to state high-risk pools.

HIPAA policies can be quite expensive. You may want to check to see if you’re eligible for Medicaid or another government-subsidized plan first. The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, a program instituted through the Affordable Care Act, also offers guaranteed access to coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and rates are generally lower than those offered through high risk pools or HIPAA policies. However, you have to have been uninsured for at least 6 months in order to apply. To review what public and private insurance options are available in your state, visit the Foundation for Health Coverage Education’s website.