Pregnancy Is Still a Pre-Existing Condition: Don’t Let Your Long-Term- Disability (LTD) Insurer Deny the Post-Pregnancy Benefits You’ve Earned

    Parent-related benefits have exploded in the past few decades, especially when compared to our parent’s era when pregnant women often needed to quit work once they started to “show.”  Now we often see not only generous time-off benefits for women, but for men too – hence the evolution into the broader parental leave phrase and paternity leave for dads. 

    Included in this evolution has been the expansion of paid-time-off for moms and dads, though some are based on position and tenure with the company and dependent on the size of the employer and its core business. When offered, health insurance to cover pregnancy-related matters is also typically comprehensive. And it was recently announced that New York will be the first state in the country to mandate, effective January 1, 2025, that employers provide 20 hours – over a 52-week period – of paid, prenatal personal leave to obtain health services related to pregnancy. 

    It’s against this backdrop that one particular aspect of pregnancy protection is glaringly absent, and that is the long-term disability insurance coverage restrictions of pregnancy-related illnesses or conditions.

    Pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Pregnancy and complications that may arise during pregnancy are typically covered under short term disability and FMLA, which provide temporary coverage and protections due to accidents or illness. Though there are some exceptions, long-term disability (LTD) typically does not apply to pregnancy. 

    Imagine how shocked women are to discover the long-term disability coverage they purchased through their employer does not include the many conditions and illnesses that are a direct result of a pregnancy. In the world of employee benefits, it’s one of the last remaining, “acceptable” forms of discrimination against women and pregnancy.  And it must change.

    In our employee benefits practice, we represent women clients who are facing a situation where pregnancy resulted in long-term side effects that weren’t present until after delivery – or unknowingly developed during pregnancy – and limits their ability to return to work and earn a living after their maternity leave or short-term disability insurance ends. These women should be able to access their LTD coverage, just like they would in any other medically applicable situation after the “elimination” period ends, which can range from 30 to 180 days, depending on an individual’s insurance provider, and receipt of the required information from a medical provider. Once approved, benefits typically range from 50-70% of the insured’s salary, though amount and duration of coverage is specific to the policy. Obviously, this is a significant amount of money, withheld solely on pregnancy discrimination grounds. 

    It’s no longer acceptable that long-term disability insurers can dismiss providing coverage to moms medically and legally entitled to it. If you’re facing challenges post-pregnancy that leave you unable to work – and without the LTD benefits you’ve earned – J.J. Conway Law can help.