For those who have really serious problems (and still have income), this will help:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is launching a special coverage program for uninsured Americans with medical problems this week, the most ambitious early investment of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

But here’s the catch: Premiums will be a stretch for many, even after government subsidies to bring rates close to what healthier groups of people are charged.

And $5 billion that Congress allocated to the program through 2013 could run out well before that.

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will begin accepting applications in many states on Thursday, with coverage available as early as Aug. 1, an administration official said Tuesday. Consumers can check availability in their states on a new website,, starting Thursday. The goal is for all states to be enrolling people by the end of the summer.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the administration’s announcement later this week.

“I would enroll as soon as you can,” said Stephen Finan, policy director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “These rates are going to be as affordable as consumers can get these days, particularly for a high-risk individual.”

Premiums will vary from state to state. In California, for example, the cost for a 50-year-old is estimated at $575 a month, with a $1,500 annual deductible and 15 percent co-insurance. Premiums in states with lower medical costs could be around $400 a month.

“That’s still quite a lot of money, so there will be some folks who struggle to afford that,” said Marian Mulkey, health reform director for the California HealthCare Foundation. “But it’s going to mean a big jump in access.”

The insurance program is a stopgap fix for the most vulnerable until 2014, when core provisions of the new health care law take effect. At that time, insurance companies will be barred from turning away people in poor health, low- and middle-income households will get government assistance with premiums, and most Americans will be required to carry coverage.