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Important Infertility Insurance Coverage Issues for the LGBT Community in New York

By Tracey Minella

June 22nd, 2017 at 8:31 am

From Stonewall to date, the LGBT community has always had to fight for rights equal to those of the heterosexual community, often in an atmosphere of “us against them”. Persistence has always paid off…eventually. As we’ve seen from winning battles on openly serving in the military with the repeal of “Don’t ask. Don’t tell” and the legalization of same-sex marriage (#LoveWins), we can move mountains as a community united.

 

The latest major gay rights fight involves insurance coverage for infertility treatment in New York.

 

The subject of mandated infertility insurance coverage in New York State has been in the news lately, but before addressing an important pending bill that could positively impact the infertility insurance rights of all New Yorkers– heterosexual and non-heterosexual– we must examine and understand the existing obstacles to LGBT infertility treatment coverage.

 

Currently, New York State has a mandate which requires coverage for infertility treatments. It’s one of only 15 states to do so, which sounds promising, but it’s not. With so many existing definitions, restrictions, qualifications, and loopholes, the mandate in its current form does very little to benefit New York’s infertile heterosexual couples– and does even less for non-heterosexual couples or single women who need advanced reproductive technologies in order to start their families.

 

Some of the major problems with the current New York State infertility coverage mandate include:

 

  • It does not cover in vitro fertilization (“IVF”), but only applies to intrauterine inseminations (“IUIs) and other low-level/less successful infertility treatments, which are also riskier in terms of causing a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.);
  • Small group employers can opt out of having to provide this coverage;
  • Insurance carriers may impose certain restrictions and rules that impact the employees’ ability to access the benefits.

 

Some insurance carriers that do offer IVF require both heterosexual and non-heterosexual couples to undergo 6-12 unsuccessful IUI cycles before moving on to IVF treatment (6 IUIs if the woman is over 35, or 12 IUIs if under 35, though some require less).

 

In addition to the above multiple-failed-IUIs prerequisite for IVF coverage, the employee must satisfy the insurance carrier’s definition of “infertility”. “Insurance companies define ‘infertility’ as the inability to conceive after one year of frequent, unprotected heterosexual intercourse, or six months if patient is over the age of 35″.

 

Applying this definition to heterosexual couples merely costs them 6-12 months of time before moving onto IVF treatment—provided they can somehow prove they’re doing it often enough and without protection. And while up to a year of time wasted really is a big deal to all infertile folks, the impact on non-heterosexuals and single women is far worse.

 

When applying this definition to a same-sex couple or a single woman, they not only lose valuable time, but they also lose money that a heterosexual couple would not. Because for same-sex couples or single women to meet the current definition of “infertility”, they would have to undergo six or 12 months of IUI with donor sperm treatments — in many cases, at their own expense –just to prove their infertility so that they could qualify for covered infertility treatments.

 

This issue was thrust into public view when two lesbian couples in New Jersey filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the language of the New Jersey insurance mandate “discriminates based on sex and sexual orientation”.

 

There is also disparity among insurance companies with respect to requiring authorizations for IUIs, requiring IUIs with donor sperm prior to approving infertility treatment, and coverage for the cost of donor sperm or thawing the sperm. In addition, companies offer different levels of coverage, which may be dependent upon copayments, deductibles and other restrictions on certain services like embryo cryopreservation, embryo storage, Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis or Pre-implantation Genetic Screening (“PGD” or “PGS”) of embryos, and more. To further complicate matters, even within the same insurance company, there are different individual plans that are chosen by the employer which provide different benefits coverage and different qualifications or benefits structure.

 

That’s why Long Island IVF assigns each patient a personal financial counselor to help guide them through the complicated insurance process to maximize any benefits to which they may be entitled.

 

Despite the obstacles that currently exist, there is good news to report and even more promising change on the horizon.

 

As a result of New York Governor Cuomo’s mandate to New York State insurance companies, they may no longer exclude same-sex prospective parents or single prospective parents from infertility coverage. While this is a victory, the sticking point for true reform and open access to appropriate infertility coverage for both heterosexual and non-heterosexual patients requires a redefinition of “infertility” and direct access to IVF.

 

There have already been noticeable changes in policies and the provision of coverage for IUIs with donor sperm in same-sex couples, presumably collectively-driven by Gov. Cuomo’s mandate, along with the New Jersey lawsuit, and forward-thinking, large-scale employers like Facebook and Google now offering high-end infertility insurance coverage for egg-freezing services. But the bottom line is that until a patient meets the “infertility” definition, they still have to self-pay.

 

That’s why we need the definition of ‘infertility’ to change. And we need access to IVF, which is the more successful treatment in terms of a singleton birth outcome.

 

And it is within our grasp right now.

 

As this article is being written, a bill that would revolutionize the infertility insurance law in New York for the benefit of heterosexuals, same-sex couples, and single women is awaiting consideration by the Senate after having passed in the Assembly this week.

 

The Senate Bill S.3148A known as the “Fair Access to Fertility Treatment Act”, or (“FAFTA”), if enacted, would not only mandate coverage for IVF treatment, but it would change the application of the definition of “infertility” to:

 

“a disease or condition characterized by the incapacity to impregnate another person or to conceive, as diagnosed or determined (I) by a physician licensed to practice medicine in this state, or (II) by the failure to establish a clinical pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse in the case of a female 35 years of age or older.”

 

According to Long Island IVF co-founder and reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Daniel Kenigsberg, who has been advocating for the passage of the FAFTA bill, “the current mandate’s specific exclusion of coverage for IVF has resulted in much emotional and financial cost spent on inferior or inappropriate treatments which ARE covered by the mandate when, for over 50% of infertile couples, IVF was the best or only treatment.” He further notes that “IVF is far safer in terms of reducing multiple pregnancy risk than less successful and often inferior treatments like ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination (IUI). There has been waste and needless sacrifice for insured couples denied IVF.”

 

It is time for both the heterosexual and the LGBT communities to get active and push our respective representatives to pass this legislation. You can find your local senator here or can access their phone number here. Armed with Senate Bill number S. 3148A, a simple phone call expressing your support of the bill may make all the difference. It takes less than one minute to help support this latest gay rights fight for fair access to appropriate infertility treatment and insurance coverage. Do it now.

 

There has never been a better time for non-heterosexuals to fulfill their dream of parenthood. If you would like more information on the many available LGBT family-building options, we encourage you to join Long Island IVF and our partner, The LGBT Network, on June 29, 2017 for a special free seminar entitled “Building Families in the LGBT Community”. Pre-register here.

 

This progressive legislation not only opens the door to IVF access for all, but it changes the definition of infertility to one that encompasses everyone, regardless of sex or sexual orientation. Instead of “us against them” it’s “one for all”. Its passage would put everybody suffering from the disease of infertility one giant step closer to our common dream of parenthood– and maybe, just maybe, a step closer to us all being one united community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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