Laid off...and Pregnant

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An interview with Momlogic

When a mom-to-be we know was laid off last week, at six months pregnant, we were devastated. Was this even legal? Financial expert Danielle Hoston answers our questions … and tells her what to do next.

Momlogic: Is it legal?

Danielle Hoston: The answer is it’s perfectly legal as long as you weren’t laid off because you were pregnant. If you have reason to believe that you were laid off because of your pregnancy, my advice would be to seek the consultation of an employment attorney to discuss the specifics of your case as soon as possible.

Momlogic: What should she do about health insurance?

Danielle Hoston: COBRA - The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. Qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102% of the cost to the plan.

COBRA generally requires that group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees in the prior year offer employees and their families the opportunity for a temporary extension of health coverage (called continuation coverage) in certain instances where coverage under the plan would otherwise end.

She could also apply for state-funded programs such as SCHIP and WIC

SCHIP - The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is Title XXI of the Social Security Act and is jointly financed by the Federal and State governments and administered by the States. Within broad Federal guidelines, each State determines the design of its program, eligibility groups, benefit packages, payment levels for coverage, and administrative and operating procedures. SCHIP provides a capped amount of funds to States on a matching basis for Federal fiscal years (FY) 1998 through 2007. Federal payments under title XXI to States are based on State expenditures under approved plans effective on or after October 1, 1997.

Families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid may be able to qualify for SCHIP. Families that do not currently have health insurance are likely to be eligible, even if you are working. The states have different eligibility rules, but in most states, uninsured children under the age of 19, whose families earn up to $36,200 a year (for a family of four) are eligible. For little or no cost, this insurance pays for: doctor visits, immunizations, hospitalizations, emergency room visits

WIC - WIC’s goal is to help keep pregnant and breastfeeding women, new moms, and kids under age 5 healthy. To do this, WIC provides: personalized nutrition information, consultations and support, checks to buy healthy food, tips for eating well to improve health, referrals for medical and dental care, health insurance, child care, housing and fuel assistance, and other services that can benefit the whole family. But that’s not all! WIC also offers immunization screening and referral, breastfeeding support, and nutrition and health workshops on a variety of topics including meal planning, maintaining a healthy weight, picky eaters, caring for a new baby, and shopping on a budget.

It’s important to remember two things:

a. You are not required to inform your potential employer that you are pregnant.

b. Regardless of whether you are showing or not, this may be the perfect opportunity to pursue advancing your education. I got my broker’s license when I was pregnant in 2000, and it greatly helped my job search when I was ultimately laid off just after my maternity leave.

We wish this mom-to-be luck in this tough situation. Do you have any pointers for her? Comment below.

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