A proposed law that would allow Utah insurance companies to provide coverage for married couples receiving infertility treatment passed a House committee hearing Friday.
Under HB347, couples would be able to opt in for infertility coverage from their insurance at a price determined by insurers. If passed, the bill also would allow couples to reallocate coverage mandated for adoption and use it instead for infertility treatment.
"We want to encourage the birth process and the miracles of technology and make them available on this limited, modest basis," said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper.
The bill, which Christensen called a "little nudge," provides that insurance companies would be permitted — but not required — to offer infertility coverage on a case-by-case basis. The bill also would provide couples the option to use $4,000 in adoption coverage required by state law for infertility treatment. But that decision still must be reached by mutual agreement with the insurer.
Tiffany Alleman, an infertility advocate who works to promote infertility awareness in the state, said she thinks the bill is important, even if only as a measure of hope. Alleman said one in seven couples are infertile. Of those, few can afford treatment that would help them conceive.
Alleman’s three children are all results of successful fertility treatments, and she and her husband have helped sponsor infertility treatments of 14 couples. But Alleman says for every one treatment she is able to sponsor, there are 50 couples who can’t afford the treatment.
The average cost of infertility treatments varies because of differences in severity of infertility. Alleman said 75 percent of infertile couples can be treated for under $3,000 if they don’t need invitro fertilization. But for some, costs can reach up to $15,000.
If insurance providers choose to offer benefits for infertility treatments, some of those costs could be mitigated and the treatment may be more accessible, but only for married couples.
Democratic representatives on the committee spoke against the bill because it limits the coverage option for only married women from ages 21 to 44. Rep. Larry Wiley, D-West Valley City, proposed to amend the bill but Republican committee members didn’t agree. Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, also voted against moving the bill to the House, making the vote 10-3.
Wiley said narrowing the bill to persons at least 21-years old was leaving out single women who want to have naturally born children and those who marry before age 21.
"We’re not giving people credit for being adults," he said. "To pass out [this bill] would be doing everyone an injustice."
While insurance companies would be allowed to offer infertility coverage under the bill, Utah Health Insurance Association director Kelly Atkinson says it’s not likely they will.
The problem is because adverse selection, Atkinson said, meaning those who will want the policy will already know of their diagnosis, and policy rates will be high--possibly higher than the cost of infertility treatments. He wants to be sure the public understands that if passed, the bill would have limited impact.
"The problem is we can price it any way we want," he said. "We’re not in the business of losing money. If this is offered, it will be priced at a high cost."
What the bill will do, Atkinson said, is allow flexibility and the option to use mandated adoption coverage for infertility treatment.
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