Pennsylvania will begin accepting applications Wednesday for a new health care plan designated for uninsured people with pre-existing medical conditions or bad health.

But those eligible should act fast, the state's Insurance Department said.

The temporary program "PA Fair Care," is limited to 3,500 people, and the spots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

"That means once the program is full, a waiting list will be created," said
Rosanne Placey, spokeswoman for the department.

The health care will offer insurance to uninsured adults considered "high risk," she said.

Immediate help: "Full federal health reform is still three years away," said Joel Ario, the state's insurance commissioner. "In the meantime, we are doing everything we can for Pennsylvanians to have access to affordable, quality health care."

People can begin applying online Wednesday, Placey said. Enrollees should have coverage within four to six weeks after their eligibility has been confirmed and the monthly premium has been paid, she said.

PA Fair Care, administered statewide through a contract with Highmark Blue Shield, offers a broad range of benefits, including preventive care, physician services, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, mental health services and prescription medications.

Subsidized premiums are $283.20 a month, plus additional co-pays and coinsurance, the department said.

Requirements: To be eligible for the insurance, one must be a legal resident of United States and the state, have a pre-existing health condition and be uninsured for the previous six months, Placey said.

Eligible individuals may apply for the health plan at www.pafaircare.com. During the process, a Social Security number, driver's license or state ID number, proof of citizenship and identity in the U.S., and proof of a pre-existing condition are all required.

As part of federal health care legislation, many states started taking applications in June for high-risk insurance pools designed for individuals unable to get insurance.

"Health insurers will be prohibited from denying coverage or charging sick people more for insurance in 2014," Ario said. "But people need more options until we get to that point."

--Reach Lauren Whetzel at 505-5433 or lwhetzel@yorkdispatch.com.