job search and health issues

sammy zone 7 TulsaDecember 1, 2007

I have a family member who is looking for a job in California. She has had major problems with migraines and TMJ. She has some control now, and is ready to work, but still needs her medical support group.

If she does not volunteer any medical information, during the initial temporary status of the job, can that company find out anything about her health? I am not sure they can do it once she has been hired, but for those first 3 months or so, can they get any information about her? What if she uses the company insurance to see a physical therapist or psychiatrist (the way to get the most appropriate medication, can the company find out about the migraines, stereotype her, and fire her?

I have heard about people being fired after they have had heart attacks, and wonder what rights common people have.

If companies have access, do any of you know what the best type of company would be to search?

She has skills, but is looking for a more moderate job, so that she can function in a low stress situation while she is mending.

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jody(7b - NC)

Sammy, there was a time when the company health benefits coordinator saw all insurance usage and no doubt reported as they saw fit. However, with the HIPPA laws no one in the company has any access to your health records unless you specifically give them that right in writing.

I worked for CIGNA for 6 years - during that time the HIPPA laws came into effect. For instance, when I changed jobs, the insurance company made an error on my birthdate. The doctor's office tried to confirm coverage, but couldn't because the birthdate was wrong. The company's benefits coverage coordinator couldn't change the birthdate for me.....I had to contact the company and let them verify my identity before the record could be corrected.

So, as long as her migrains do not have a visible impact on her work (ie missed days, inability to do the work), and she doesn't volunteer any information, no one should be the wiser.

But, she should look at all the paperwork the company gives her carefully, because there could be something they require her to sign that lets them get some information about her health issues. It would not be legal for them to do so unless they can demonstrate that its a requirement for the job, but you never know.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 9:17AM
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terryjean(5 Central IL)

Sammy-I suffered from migraines horribly to the extent where I would throw up and the pain was so bad I would wish for death. I would also wake up every morning feeling like I had slept on a concrete pillow. Then about a year ago I saw a new female doctor, who put me on TOPAMAX twice a day at a dose of 50 mg. per pill. Keep in mind I have suffered with these headaches since I was 20 and am now 52. I have now been headache free for one year after having at least one major headache per week. You might want to pass this info on to your friend; it's been a miracle for me. My life is now my own after suffering for over 30 years. -terry

    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 6:46PM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

THanks Jody. My school is self insured, and they brag about paying more than Blue Cross when Blue Cross did the paper work. But because they are self insured, probably they have total access to our health issues.

Her problem is that she must see some of these specialists. She needs the care of the physical therapist, and the psychiatrist gives her the medication. My husband could always see a doctor in conjunction with reporting to work, lunch, or the end of the day. He would then just work late, and make up the time. He always worked late anyway. My daughter has been watched carefully as a new employee, and they don't want her to have appointments. It has been a real challenge to get the medical care she needs when she doesn't feel that she can leave.

Terryjean, I will pass this along to her. She has trouble talking about her health, and talking about the medications since they have her on medications that are super strong. It is unbelievable to me that she saw so many neurologists, and they never diagnosed the TMJ.

She has always worked and worked her way through college. Her schedule was always flexible since she had classes on different times on different days. She had opportunities to see doctors when she did that. But now it is different. I have often thought that she needs to work for a major medical group, but possibly they wouldn't understand her health issues.


    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 8:09PM
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trishaw(Z7 Upper SC)

I would think the only way they would find out is when she fills out the forms for health coverage. They ask all kinds of questions and whoever in the company sends those forms in would indeed see them. I would imagine copies are kept on file as well?

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 10:37AM
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I think she would be best to find a company with a very flexible work schedule that wouldn't conflict with medical appointments and where previous health conditions wouldn't be an issue. It is possible to find a place like this. I work for the university here and have a very flexible schedule where as long as I get the work done no one cares when I do it. It has very good health insurance and lots of paid sick time (although my boss doesn't always want me to use it). Most university and government jobs will have very good benefits to make up for the lower pay.

I did once lose a job because I took too much sick time. Here my sick time isn't an issue and I actually have about 200 hours of paid sick time to use when I need it. I make less than I would at a private company, but the benefits more than make up for it.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 2:59PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

As I remember from job interviews, the only thing a company can ask is:

Do you have any medical or family issues that will affect your ability to perform your assigned work duties or that will prevent you from working the scheduled hours?

She must answer truthfully, yes or no. She doesn't have to go into details on her health.

That is all they can ask, as far as I can remember, due to anti-discrimination laws.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 11:43PM
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