Q: "I can't get health insurance because of my pre-existing condition. Is there anything I can do?"
A: You may be eligible for the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan -- a program for people who have a pre-existing condition and have been without health insurance coverage for at least six months.
People with pre-existing conditions face daunting challenges -- and high costs -- when they shop for health insurance. This new plan covers physician and hospital services and prescription drugs. Premiums vary by state. Annual out-of-pocket expenses for enrollees are capped.
Details about the program and how to apply may vary depending on what state you live in. In some states, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with the help of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Finance Center, will run the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan; other states have asked to run the program themselves.
Regardless of which state you live in, to qualify for the program you must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, and you must have been uninsured for at least six months. In addition, you must have a pre-existing condition or have been denied insurance coverage because of a medical condition.
For more information, call the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan toll-free at 1-866-717-5826 (TTY 1-866-561-1604) between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. EST. Or visit www.pcip.gov and select "Find Your State" to learn about eligibility and how to apply.
Note: Social Security offices will be closed Monday in observance of Presidents' Day.
Get answers to your Social Security questions each Thursday from the Social Security District Director Martin Coffey. Submit questions by writing to Business Editor John Vass Jr., Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.