Health insurance and pregnancy: What are the rules when starting a job?

By Insurance.com Posted : 01/01/2011

Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, employer-sponsored group health insurance plans that cover maternity care cannot exclude coverage for pregnancy as a pre-existing condition.

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If you're starting a new job, check with the new employer to see when you would qualify for coverage after starting the job and whether the plan includes maternity care.

Meanwhile, if you have health insurance through your current employer, you can continue that coverage by electing COBRA insurance, so-called for the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. That landmark law provided a health insurance safety net for people who lose coverage when changing or losing a job. The law applies to companies with 20 or more workers, but many states have passed their own mini-COBRA laws that apply to employers with 19 or fewer workers.

If you elect COBRA, you pay the monthly premium to continue coverage through your former employer's plan after you leave the company for up to 18 months.

If the new employer's health plan does include maternity care, then continue COBRA until you qualify for the benefit. (You may be eligible right away, or you might have to wait a month or two before you're eligible to enroll in the company's benefits plan.)

When employer does not offer health insurance

If a new employer does not offer health insurance or its plan does not include maternity care, consider your options. You could either continue COBRA coverage for as long as you need it, or, if your spouse has coverage through an employer, you could ask to be added to his plan as a dependent. (Make sure his plan covers maternity care first, though.)

Under HIPAA, an employee or dependent who did not sign up for a health plan during the annual open enrollment period, can sign up later if they lost coverage through another plan. Don't put this off if you decide to go this route. Your spouse has 30 days to request his employer add you to his health plan after you leave your job and lose coverage.

Finally, make sure you have one of these group health insurance options in place. You will not be able to qualify for individual health insurance to cover prenatal care and delivery when you are already pregnant.

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