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My wife was turned down for health insurance and we're not sure what to do now. Even with an agent it looks bleak. Any suggestions?

This is a tough situation in which many Americans find themselves. Because health insurance companies want to minimize risk, they often deny coverage or charge unaffordable rates for people with pre-existing health conditions.

Your wife could get coverage through the federal Medicaid program, but only if you meet the program's low-income eligibility requirements.

If you are unable enroll in Medicaid, you should check with your state. Many states have high-risk health insurance programs for people in your wife's situation. Eligibility and availability of these programs varies from state to state.

Another option is a new program called the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP). These plans are now operating in every state, and have been developed either by the states themselves or the federal government.

The plans stem from the health care reform law and are designed to provide coverage for people who can't otherwise obtain health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Beginning in 2014, health insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition and everyone will be required to purchase health insurance. Individuals and small businesses will buy health insurance through exchanges--one-stop shops for insurance. At that point, your wife will be able to find coverage.

Until then, see if she qualifies for the PCIP. To get started, go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' consumer website, Healthcare.gov for information. There you'll find information about upcoming changes from health reform, as well as tools to help you find coverage options now. Click on "Find Insurance Options" on the home page to get started.

For more, see Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans available.

Last updated: Jan. 19, 2011