Legislation Would Ensure Fertility Treatments Are Covered

By Erin Delmore

“We need to expand our definition of infertility,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey.

New Jersey’s lawmakers are getting behind a bill they say would increase access to fertility treatments for same-sex couples and single women.

“We need to look at these outdated laws — this is one of them — and we need to bring it back up into 2016, to where we are today but to even think further,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt.

New Jersey is one of 15 states that requires insurance companies to cover fertility treatments. Only Maryland and California provide coverage for same-sex couples. Advocates testifying before the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee said New Jersey’s 2001 law is too restrictive.

“It really did help a lot of people with the issue, but it really is biased because it is based on an old definition of infertility… as the diagnosis of infertility have changed since 2001. Practiced guidelines and the treatment of infertility have changed since 2001. The current statute is outdated,” said Dr. Patrick Heiser of Ferring Pharmaceuticals.

The bill sponsored by Committee Vice-Chair Lampitt would ensure fertility treatments are covered under certain insurance plans. Lampitt said her legislation predates a headline-grabbing lawsuit by two lesbian couples fighting for the same fertility coverage as heterosexual couples. New Jersey’s state mandate says insurance kicks in only after a woman has proved her infertility by one or two years of “unprotected sex with a man,” depending on the woman’s age. There’s no allowance for families that don’t include a male partner.

Downey says insurance rights should be expanded and doctors should take the on determining a woman’s treatment.

“We should also trust them on what they think in terms of what fertility means, how long a period or how many actual procedures need to happen before you’re considered infertile,” Downey.

Downey shared her personal experience with the committee.

“My husband and I got married when we were in our mid-30s, never thought we were going to have any difficulty getting pregnant, everyone thinks it’s going to be an easy thing, and it took us seven years and we went through the infertility process going through IVF treatments including IUIs,” she said.

“We know that women are going through their careers and they are not engaged in terms of getting married but they choose to want to have families. So this is just not for same-sex couples who are married, but it is for expanding the rights of single women here in New Jersey,” Lampitt said.

While the lawsuit winds its way through New Jersey’s legal system, this legislation is one step closer to becoming law. It was released from committee after a hearing and a vote Thursday.