Q: I am extremely worried about losing my health-care coverage. My wife was recently diagnosed with a serious medical condition which will eventually require an organ transplant, followed by long-term medical care.
Because our industry is prone to erratic business cycles, layoffs are always a possibility. If I were to lose my job, I have no idea how we would manage without health insurance. Even if I found a position with another company, a new policy might not cover my wife's pre-existing condition.
I'm trying to decide whether to tell my manager about my wife's medical issues. In the event of a layoff, I would like him to know that I'm willing to take a significant pay cut in order to remain employed and keep my insurance. Do you think I should talk to him?
A: I am truly sorry to hear that you and your wife are facing such a difficult diagnosis. My hope is that your company will be sympathetic and supportive, but unfortunately that's not always the case. Before sharing these concerns with your boss, you should try to anticipate management's likely reaction.
The corporate response to family problems depends largely on the values of top management. Compassionate executives who feel loyal to employees would never want to deprive someone of badly needed health-care coverage. If that describes your company, then informing your boss might be a good idea.
But if management views employees as just another expense, your disclosure could have exactly the opposite effect. You might actually be placed in the layoff group to avoid an increase in health-care costs or the need to grant you an extended leave. Of course, no one would ever say this was the reason.
One indisputable fact, however, is that you must protect yourself by becoming intimately acquainted with both the details of your insurance plan and your rights under the Family & Medical Leave Act. You might also consider consulting an attorney who specializes in workplace issues.
If the new health-care law remains in place, people who are currently held hostage by their health insurance will eventually begin to have more options. That's because denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions is prohibited beginning in 2014.