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I'm in my second month of pregnancy. What if I start a new job? Will my new employer's health insurance plan consider my pregnancy a pre-existing condition and deny me coverage?

If you maintained health insurance coverage in the last 12 months with no breaks of 63 consecutive days or more, your new employer's health insurance plan can't exclude any pre-existing condition from coverage. That's the rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a landmark federal law. Moreover, employer-sponsored group health plans that include maternity benefits cannot exclude pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, period -- even if you've gone without health insurance in the last year.

Keep in mind, though, you still might have to sit out a waiting period of a month or two, depending on the employer's personnel policies, before you qualify for health benefits.

Don't give up your current health insurance, if you have any, until you confirm the new employer's health plan includes maternity benefits and you've successfully stayed on the job long enough to qualify for the company's benefit package. Most employer-sponsored group health plans include maternity coverage, and many states mandate that group health plans include prenatal and delivery benefits. Still, it's best to check.

If you're leaving a job with health insurance coverage to take the new position, you can elect COBRA coverage to continue to receive insurance through your former employer's health plan. COBRA -- created by another federarl law known as the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act -- lets famiies continue coverage through employer-sponsored health insurance after the loss of a job, death or divorce. You have to foot the entire premium bill for the coverage under COBRA, but the money is well-spent, especially as you start a pregnancy. Once you're on the new employer's plan, you can stop the COBRA coverage.

For more, see HIPAA: Your rights to health insurance portability.

Last updated: Jan. 19, 2012