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Disability Insurance and Pregnancy

Maternity leave, also known as family medical leave, is the time off taken by a parent for a birth or adoption. The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) entitles most qualifying workers to up to 12 weeks of job-protected medical leave. However, the FMLA guarantees only unpaid leave. It doesn't cover those who work for small companies.

Many parents use a combination of the following during time away from work:

  • Sick leave
  • Vacation time
  • Unpaid leave
  • Short-term disability coverage

If you don't have the amount of time you need in sick leave, vacation time, and unpaid leave, short-term disability can cover much of your lost income.

Disability Insurance and Pregnancy: The Basics

Disability insurance will cover a person's living costs during pregnancy. In this way, it can be similar to workers' compensation.

Disability insurance benefits can allow a person not to work while they are pregnant. Eligibility for disability benefits often includes pregnancy or pregnancy-related issues. Pregnancy is usually considered a medical condition. So, the FMLA requires paid family leave for people with qualifying medical conditions.

Under the FMLA, qualifying medical conditions include pregnancy. Short-term disability insurance is an option as well under the FMLA. If state disability insurance is not covering all your expenses, the federal equivalent may do so instead. Temporary disability insurance is always a great option for wage replacement.

While benefit amounts may vary because of a variety of factors, a person often can access disability plans when pregnant. Family members may also make use of the benefits as well. Exclusions may apply, so it's important to check with an attorney if you're confused or need more help.

It's important to know that both long-term disability insurance and short-term disability insurance are options for pregnant people. In preparing to have a new child, a person should consider all options for how they will support themselves and their child after the birth. Short-term disability benefits are often easier to obtain and maintain.

Short-Term Disability Insurance

Pregnancy, along with illness and injury, is covered by short-term disability insurance. Short-term disability is meant to cover a portion of your income during the time you're unable to work.

Many states and employers offer short-term disability. If your state provides short-term disability insurance, you may pay a small amount out of your paycheck to cover your share. If your employer provides it, the cost may be covered for you.

If neither your state nor employer provides short-term disability, you can purchase your own individual policy through an insurance company. You can also do so if you need a greater degree of coverage. If you already have coverage, you can buy more.

Short-term disability can pay between 50% to 100 % of your income. It does not matter whether you're covered through your state, employer, or individual plan.

The standard term length for pregnancy leave is six weeks. However, some insurance plans allow for a greater term if you experience complications. They may also do so if you have a C-section delivery or if you're unable to perform your regular or customary job duties. Other plans provide longer terms. For example, in California, the state covers 55% of your income, up to a maximum of $1,075 per week, for up to four weeks before your due date and up to six weeks after delivery.

Additionally, many programs require that you be out of work for a specified period of time, often a week, before you're able to begin collecting disability benefits.

When Should I Get Coverage?

You should consider getting short-term disability insurance before you become pregnant. You may obtain short-term disability insurance during your pregnancy, but the insurer may be able to decline coverage. If the insurer declines coverage, it will often be because it has considered your pregnancy a pre-existing condition. 

While new rules in the Affordable Care Act prohibit denials of coverage for pre-existing conditions, those rules apply only to certain types of health insurance, not to disability insurance. As long as your policy, allows for the denial under its own terms, you may be denied coverage.

Other Considerations

If you're pregnant when searching for a short-term disability insurance plan, you should be sure to obtain a policy that covers a pre-existing pregnancy. If your state and employer offer short-term disability, you may be required to exhaust the state coverage and allow your employer's coverage to make up the difference. If you're not covered by your state or employer, or you would like greater coverage, you may purchase an individual short-term disability policy.

Get Your Disability Claim Reviewed

If you're currently pregnant or planning to have a child, you have plenty of things to think about other than disability insurance coverage. Insurance policies can be very confusing, with plenty of small print written without the end-user in mind. If you have questions about disability coverage and pregnancy, have an experienced disability attorney review your claim.

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