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Ask the Health Insurance Expert
I'm five months pregnant and have insurance through my husband's employer, but he is about to lose his job. What are my options for health insurance?
You have a couple of options. You could sign up for coverage through your own employer if you have a job that offers health insurance benefits.
Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), employer-sponsored group health insurance plans that cover maternity care can't exclude pregnancy as a pre-existing condition. HIPAA also allows you to enroll outside of the usual annual enrollment period if you lost coverage from another source, in this case your husband's employer.
Maintaining health insurance through COBRA
A second option is to continue to buy group health insurance coverage provided by your husband's soon-to-be-former employer. The federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) guarantees you the right to purchase this coverage, out of your own pocket, for up to 18 months. Congress passed this law to provide a health insurance safety net for families after job loss, death or divorce.
The federal COBRA law applies to companies with at least 20 employees, but many states have passed their own versions of the law to apply to companies with fewer than 20 workers.
After your husband loses his job, his employer or the health plan administrator should send him a COBRA enrollment packet. You will then have 60 days to elect COBRA coverage.Due to your condition, choosing COBRA is wise if you don't have coverage options through your employer.
Starting in 2014, health reform prohibits insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. But until then you will be unable to find individual health insurance to cover your prenatal care and delivery if you're already pregnant.
Besides ensuring you'll have health insurance during your pregnancy, continuing coverage through COBRA protects your health insurance rights in the future. HIPAA guarantees that people who have continuous group health coverage--without a gap of more than 63 days--can't be forced to sit out a waiting period because of a pre-existing condition under a new group health insurance plan.