Expert Jennifer Jaff Explains the Tricks to Getting Health Insurance and Affordable Care for Chronic Pain

Knowing your rights and options is critical for a chronic pain patient.
Jennifer Jaff, Esq., is an insurance and disabilities attorney and founder and executive director of Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness.

Q: If I don't have insurance through an employer or spouse, what kind should I look for?

A: Number one, look for a high-risk pool—insurance that is designed for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if your state has one by calling your state insurance department. Some have good coverage and are reasonably priced, some have lousy coverage and are incredibly expensive. Ask a lot of questions and look into it carefully to make sure it's going to meet your needs.

Q: Will it cover pre-existing conditions?

A: Even though it's designed for people with chronic illness, it still may have a pre-existing condition waiting period. If there is a high-risk pool and it's decent insurance, that's the way to go. The other kind that you might be able to get on an individual basis is guaranteed issue insurance. That means that the state has passed a law telling insurance companies they must offer a policy to everyone who wants one. The policies differ widely. Often the guaranteed issue plans are very basic coverage, but it's better than nothing.

Some states have COBRA conversions, so if you're coming off of a COBRA policy because you left your job, went through a divorce, or are an adult coming off of your parent's policy, you can convert that COBRA policy into an individual policy with the same insurance company and that avoids the pre-existing condition problem.

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Last Updated: May 05, 2008

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