I'm pregnant, can I get health insurance now?

By Maryalene LaPonsie on May 24th, 2010

Health Insurance

Pregnancy is a wonderful time of expectation, but it can also be an expensive undertaking. If you discover you are pregnant and don't have health insurance coverage, you may find yourself paying big bills long after your new bundle of joy arrives. However, pregnant women do have options when it comes to finding maternity health care.

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), pregnancy cannot be considered a pre-existing condition by certain group health insurance plans. That means a health insurance company cannot deny group coverage to pregnant women so long as it offers maternity care as part of the plan benefits.

Unfortunately, the same provision does not apply to individual health insurance plans. These policies can, and regularly do, deny policies to pregnant women. While group health insurance plans can spread their risk through a large group--in other words, they receive premium payments from policyholders who make few or no claims, as well as those who file large claims--an individual health plan cannot spread risk the same way.

A 2007 study completed on behalf of the March of Dimes found that the average cost of maternity care, including delivery, was approximately $8,802 in 2004. However, the cost may be significantly more depending on where you live.

All this may leave you wondering what options are available to you--here are four possibilities worth exploring.

1. Find group health insurance through your spouse

If your spouse's employer offers group insurance, now may be the time to sign up. You cannot be turned down for health insurance coverage. Even if you must pay a portion of the insurance premium, it is sure to be less expensive than paying for prenatal care, labor and delivery out-of-pocket.

It is important to note that most employer group insurance plans have annual open enrollment periods. This means that employees can opt into the health plan at a designated time that occurs only once a year. Your spouse can contact the human resources department to find out when the open enrollment period is scheduled and when your new coverage may begin.

2. Look for a job with group insurance benefits

Many major retailers and chains offer health insurance benefits, even to their part-time staff. Although companies may change their benefit packages at any time, the following is a partial list of businesses that offer access to group insurance to their part-time employees:

  • Starbucks
  • Whole Foods
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Staples
  • Cost Plus World Market
  • Wells Fargo
  • FedEx Express
  • JC Penney
  • Lands End

These businesses may require a minimum number of hours worked or may impose a probationary period before you are eligible to purchase group health insurance. Although working while pregnant or having your spouse work two jobs is not ideal, it can give you the temporary health insurance you need.

3. Free health insurance through Medicaid

The federal government requires that every state administer a Medicaid program. Free health insurance can provide care not only during pregnancy but after delivery as well. To be eligible, you must meet certain income and asset guidelines. Check with your state social services or human services department for more information.

4. Cheap health insurance through CHIP

Like Medicaid, each state is required to administer a Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). When the program was reauthorized in 2009, it provided more funding to states that wished to cover pregnant women with CHIP medical insurance. Many states now cover:

  • Prenatal care
  • Lab testing
  • Labor and delivery
  • 60 Days of post-partum care

Each state has different guidelines and coverage. Contact your state's CHIP office for more details. You can find out more about the CHIP program in your state by calling the toll-free CHIP hotline at 1-877-KIDS NOW (543-7669).

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