Delaware couples struggling to conceive may get some help if a measure proposed in the state Senate becomes law.
The Delaware Fertility Care and Preservation Bill would mandate that private insurance companies cover treatment for infertility.
“Roughly one in eight Delawareans are struggling with infertility. I believe the number is much higher. Of those who are diagnosed, about 75 percent cannot afford treatment, so they receive a diagnosis and have no means to pay for care,” said Christie Gross, a fertility care advocate who’s been working closely with bill sponsor Sen. Bryan Townsend.
Infertility, the inability to conceive children, is also defined as a medical condition.
“We didn’t always recognize as such over the years, but technology has gotten better where we can diagnose and treat better, and so we need to really make sure that insurance covers this,” Townsend said.
Small businesses, religious employers and those who are self-insured would be exempt.
Townsend says the legislation would make Delaware competitive with New Jersey and Maryland, where fertility coverage is already required.
“It’s also an economic competitor issue for Delaware. Jersey and Maryland offer good coverage, so we lose young employees and young residents to those states because they want to start a family, and they’ve got to go there,” Townsend said.
The bill would also cover fertility preservation treatment for cancer patients. Anyone undergoing cancer treatment could be left infertile, so they would have the option to store their eggs, embryos or sperm.
Senate Bill 139, introduced by Townsend in January, was assigned to the Senate Health, Children & Social Services Committee.
If it becomes law, Delaware could become the 16th state to cover fertility care services and the third to pass a fertility preservation law.
‘A family-building issue’
At one time, Eileen Ramos thought she would never have a child because she was diagnosed with endometriosis. “I myself suffered from infertility,” Ramos said. She is now a mother thanks to a very costly in vitro fertilization process.
Marisa Reeder and her husband, Steve, also conceived through IVF. They quickly discovered that many insurances didn’t cover fertility care services.
“I’ve actually had three different insurance plans during all of that because my employer changed coverages, none of them covered any infertility care,” Marisa Reeder said.
However supporters of Senate Bill 139 are determined to change that.
“It’s just kind of shocking that something so prevalent in the population is sort of looked at as not important in insurance coverage,” Reeder said.
SB 139 is not expected to be a costly piece of legislation. Gross said about 15 percent of men and women diagnosed with infertility will actually require the most advanced form of treatment, which is IVF. The rest will actually become pregnant through surgery, prescription drugs, or artificial insemination.
“This is a family-building issue. This is not a policy proposal that belongs in any political party. It is something that should unite us all,” Gross said.