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Can I get health insurance coverage when I'm already pregnant?

You won't find individual health insurance on the private market to cover maternity care if you are already pregnant. Insurers consider the pregnancy a pre-existing condition and will refuse to cover it.

You can, however, qualify for coverage through an employer-sponsored group health insurance plan. If you get a job that offers health insurance and the coverage includes maternity care, the group health plan is not allowed to exclude the pregnancy as a pre-existing condition. A landmark federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) ensures your eligibility for coverage.

You can also sign up for coverage on a spouse's health plan if your spouse's employer offers health insurance to dependents. If you can show you recently lost coverage through another source, or you are newly married, you can sign up for coverage on a spouse's plan outside the regular enrollment period.

If you don't have access to an employer-sponsored group health plan, check into the federally funded Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), a program established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that provides coverage for consumers who can't qualify for health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

To qualify for PCIP, you must be without insurance for at least six months and show a doctor's note to confirm your diagnosis. The PCIP website provides links to information about the plan in each state.

Yet another potential option is Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance plan for certain groups of low-income people, including pregnant women. Contact your local Medicaid office to see if you qualify. Standards for eligibility vary by state.

For more, see Pregnancy complicates health insurance options.

Last updated: Dec. 8, 2011