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Can you buy an individual health insurance plan with maternity benefits if you are already pregnant?

Not yet. But that will change in 2014 when, under the federal health care reform law, all basic health plans will have to cover maternity care, and health insurance companies will not be able to deny coverage or charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, including pregnancy.

In the meantime, can you get coverage through your employer or your spouse's employer? Most employer-sponsored health plans provide maternity benefits because of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. The landmark law requires health plans sponsored by employers with 15 or more workers to cover pregnancy-related expenses the same way they cover other medical conditions. In addition, employer-sponsored health plans can't deny coverage for pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, according to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act -- yet another federal law.

In the individual market, meanwhile, no insurer will offer you maternity benefits if you're already pregnant. Even if you weren't pregnant, you might have difficulty finding an individual health plan that covers maternity care, unless your state mandates the coverage. According to a 2009 study by the National Women's Law Center, only 13 percent of individual health plans available to a 30-year-old woman provided maternity benefits.

If you don't have access to employer-sponsored coverage, check whether you're eligible for the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, a federal and state plan created under the federal health care reform law. The plan is for people who lack health insurance and have a tough time finding coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

For more, see Think you're locked out of affordable health insurance? Try PCIPs.

Last updated: Jul. 13, 2012