D.C. Council member Christina Henderson has introduced a bill, the Expanding Access to Fertility Treatment Amendment Act of 2022, mandating the District’s public and private health insurance providers to expand their coverage to include the diagnosis and treatment for infertility.
The bill received its formal introduction to the council on February 28. Henderson said fertility treatments in the District tend to be expensive.
“Many people don’t anticipate that they will have difficulty conceiving a child,” Henderson said. “Once they realize that they do and that there is a clear solution, they are then met with another obstacle – cost. One cycle of in vitro fertilization alone can cost between $20,000 to $25,000 and insurance providers are not required to cover this treatment. This legislation would change that, requiring private, Medicaid and DC Alliance insurers to cover assisted reproductive technologies.”
Henderson said state-mandated coverage has proven to increase the use of fertility services three-fold and is linked to better public health outcomes.
“It is time for the District to join 19 states that have already mandated this coverage,” she said.
Henderson said Maryland requires fertility treatments to be covered by health insurers. She knows of cases where people have left the District to move to Maryland mainly for coverage of fertility treatments. The council member said even West Virginia, known for its conservative politics, requires health insurers to offer that type of coverage to its residents. She said companies such as Starbucks and Amazon offer the coverage.
“I know people who have taken a second job at Amazon because they offer fertility treatment coverage once they are hired,” Henderson said.
The first-time lawmaker said women who don’t have insurance coverage remain at a disadvantage.
“We know women without insurance coverage are three times more likely to discontinue treatment after one cycle, compared to women with insurance coverage,” she said. “Insurance coverage also reduces the likelihood of births of multiples to one mother, given that the financial pressure to transfer more than one to two embryos is reduced. This is turn reduces the risk of complications and adverse health effects for the mother,” Henderson said.
Henderson said African-American and Latino mothers don’t seek in vitro fertilization treatments as frequently as whites. She cited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention most recent analysis which reported 8% of Black women aged 25-44 seek medical help to get pregnant compared to 15% of white women.
Specifically, Henderson’s bill prohibits employers from imposing additional costs, waiting periods, or other limitations for the diagnosis of infertility; placing pre-existing condition exclusions or waiting periods on coverage for the treatment of infertility; or using prior treatment for infertility as a basis for excluding, limiting or otherwise restricting coverage and limiting on coverage for fertility treatment based on a class protected under the D.C. Human Rights Act.
Council members Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4) have indicated they support the bill. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Business and Economic Development for further action.
Henderson said District women will be the primary beneficiaries of the bill.
“I realize that there may be a premium increase if my bill becomes law but it will be nominal,” she said. “They won’t have to take a second job in order to have fertility treatments in the city. I look forward to working with my colleagues to enhance coverage offered for future mothers and families in the District.”