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Ask the Health Insurance Expert

If a man were to get a new job, would the company also be able to insure his pregnant wife without it being a pre-existing condition?

Yes. Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), group health insurance plans that include maternity care cannot exclude pregnancy as a pre-existing condition. This applies whether you're the primary insured or the dependent on the company plan.

However, the plan may still have a routine waiting period before any new hire can enroll. A waiting period of a month or two might not be a problem during the first trimester of the pregnancy, but if the due date is only a few months away it could be a serious financial issue.

If you're thinking about switching jobs, consider bridging the health insurance coverage gap with COBRA continuation insurance. COBRA lets you continue coverage through your former employer's health plan for up to 18 months at your own expense.

Maintaining group coverage is critical because a woman can't buy an individual health insurance plan that provides maternity coverage when she is already pregnant.

Before discontinuing COBRA, check the details of what the new employer's plan offers. HIPAA does not require employers to offer health insurance, nor does it mandate that all group plans cover maternity care, although some states require group plans to cover prenatal care and delivery.

For more, see pregnancy complicates health insurance options.

Last updated: May. 9, 2011