INFERTILITY COVERAGE: NY Bill’s Prospects Look Strong
A New York bill that would require insurers to cover infertility treatments is at the center of a pitched battle between health insurers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, but its prospects for passage look good, Newsday reports. The state Assembly is expected today to pass the bill, sponsored by Speaker Sheldon Silver (D), and the measure has support from state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R) as well. Yet because the Catholic Church is concerned that the measure would "cover treatments that involve destroying human embryos," and legislators are vying to support the "pro-family" measure, the issue is "poised to become one of this year's most unpredictable bargaining chips among Silver, Bruno and [Gov. George] Pataki (R)," who has not yet taken a stand on the bill.
The Bottom Line
A central issue is the impact that mandated infertility coverage would have on insurance premiums. Groups such as Resolve Inc., a nonprofit advocacy group for infertile couples that is partially funded by pharmaceutical companies, contend that covering the treatments -- which can range from $8,000 to $13,000 per session -- would raise the average cost of annual premiums only $3 per year. But even the Senate version's co-sponsor, state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R) "said other estimates are as high as $25 per person each year," and Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield pegs the figure at $8 per month. Citing a report that showed women in Massachusetts -- where fertility coverage is required under law -- utilized the services at a rate five times the national average, the New York State Task Force on Life and Law last year recommended against passing such a measure, writing, "We simply cannot justify legislation giving special priority to assisted reproduction when so many other basic health care needs remain unmet." However, Duncan Davie, chief of staff for state Senate Insurance Committee Chair James Seward (R), said, "If there's going to be one or two [coverage mandates] that make it through this year the infertility bill is certainly a priority" (Pleven, 5/10).