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Ask the Health Insurance Expert

My COBRA coverage (which I've had extended to the maximum of 18 months) is going to end the same month I'm due to have a baby. My coverage ends on the first of the month and I'm due on the 18th. Is there any extension that would allow me to remain on COBRA for the last month of my pregnancy? I live in Pennsylvania.

Pregnancy won’t qualify you for extra time on COBRA. Instead you should look into replacing COBRA coverage with a HIPAA plan, also known as a guaranteed-issue plan.

HIPAA stands for the federal Health Insurance Portability and Availability Act, a mammoth law that among other things protects people from losing access to health insurance coverage when they move from one job to the next. Once you’ve exhausted your COBRA coverage, you are eligible for a HIPAA, or guaranteed-issue, plan. These plans can’t deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and your pregnancy should be covered.

But don’t wait until the last minute to get coverage in place. Start looking for a plan now. You can’t get quotes for HIPAA plans online; you’ll need to contact an insurance agent or company directly. To find insurers that offer HIPAA plans in your area, contact your state department of insurance.

Beware that HIPAA plans are not necessarily cheap, but given your pregnancy, you won’t be able to find individual health insurance otherwise. No insurer will offer you maternity coverage when you’re already pregnant.

For more, see how see how pregnancy complicates health insurance options.

Last updated: Feb. 25, 2011