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Can I add maternity to individual health insurance when I'm ready to start a family?

You can't add maternity care to an individual health insurance policy once you're already pregnant. Another big question is whether you can find an individual insurance policy that offers maternity coverage at all.

This depends in part on where you live. Some states require at least some individual health insurance plans to include maternity care, but in other states, the offerings are slim. A 2009 study by the National Women's Law Center found 87 percent of individual health plans available to a 30-year-old woman did not include maternity care.

Before a new law went into effect recently in California requiring all health plans to include maternity coverage, less than 15 percent of the individual health insurance plans sold in the state included maternity care benefits. In some counties, the only plan with maternity coverage had a $5,000 deductible.

All this will change in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act. At that time, all standard health insurance plans nationwide must provide coverage for maternity coverage. In addition, health insurers won't be allowed to charge you a higher premium or deny you coverage based on your health condition. That means you'll be able to qualify for coverage with maternity care, even if you're pregnant.

In the meantime, if you're thinking about starting a family soon, scour the market to find and compare health plans that offer maternity coverage now, rather than risk getting pregnant without it.

For more, see Pregnancy complicates health insurance options.

Last updated: Aug. 28, 2012