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Ask Jean: Pre-existing Conditions

mailbagmondayAbout two years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I am currently healthy and am working to avoid treatment as long as possible with lifestyle changes and a rigorous exercise program. My health care costs are currently in line with most people with the exception of additional tests and scans annually. If I were to change jobs, how likely am I to experience serious issues with a preexisting condition? I really want to check out my options because my current job is very stressful and not rewarding and that has a negative effect on my health.

– Brian

Congratulations on your progress in the face of that diagnosis! I hope your health continues to improve. To answer your question, I’m happy to say that you can rest assured that you can’t be declined coverage under an employer-based health insurance plan due to a pre-existing medical condition. This is one of the long-standing distinctions between employer-based coverage and coverage you purchase as an individual on the open market (though, per health care reform, this will change in 2014 when individually-purchased plans can no longer decline coverage to applicants based on pre-existing conditions, either).

That said, you could face a waiting period before medical care kicks in for pre-existing conditions like cancer. Generally, this can last no longer than six months, and not all employers will impose the wait. Essentially, that is your worst case scenario: That you may have to wait up to six months before coverage related to your cancer kicks in. That argues for getting all of your scans and procedures related to that taken care of while you’re on your current plan, just in case.

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