New law covers some infertility treatments for LGBT couples

Joan Quigley, The Jersey Journal

It seems pretty simple. If, after trying hard for many months, you can't become pregnant, you are probably infertile. Or your partner is.

But wait a minute. According to most insurance policies, you have to be in a two-sex relationship to meet their standards for treatment of infertility. If you are single or in a same-sex relationship you won't meet the definition of "infertile" regardless of your inability to reproduce.

I don't think there's a standard definition for "outta luck" but that's what you probably are if you are single or in a same-sex marriage or partnership and hope to have a biological child but can't pay thousands of dollars for infertility treatments or in vitro fertilization.

Who knew?

Apparently, a whole bunch of New Jersey legislators knew and did something about it. They went as far as they could. Assemblywoman Valerie Vaineri-Huttle, D-Bergen, explained the recently enacted bill requires the State Health Benefits Program and the School Employees Health Benefit Plan to offer expanded coverage for infertility-related health benefits. They had to redefine "infertility" to get that done.

The restructured definition is based on recommendations from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and lists eight conditions. Meeting any one of them would indicate infertility. They include males who cannot impregnate females for any reason, females with male partners who are unable to conceive after months of unprotected sex, females without male partners, and females unable to carry a baby to term.

The new law does not require similar benefits to be provided by private or employer-funded health insurance plans, but it is expected to make pregnancy possible for untold numbers of state and school employees.

As expected, opponents claimed the expansion would be costly to taxpayers, but a fiscal estimate by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services couldn't even begin to guess how many people would be affected. They declined to estimate its impact.

"Times have changed and so have the constructs of family and relationships. The law did not reflect the needs of today's woman in today's society," said Vaineri-Huttle, a strong supporter of the legislation.

Assemblywoman Joanne Downey, D-Monmouth, said, "No one should be denied health coverage. Period. Women starting families, whether single or in a same-sex relationship or married, should receive the support they need from their health care provider."

Seven other states have taken similar actions to expand infertility treatments, but a group of LGBT activists in Hawaii want to go even further.

There two gay men spent more than $20,000 for a fertility procedure when they decided to have a child using a surrogate mother. Currently, coverage for IVF is only available to married women using sperm from their husbands. So gay men, same-sex female couples and single women are left out. Believing male couples have few other options, the men are leading the charge to have insurance companies cover in vitro fertilization for more couples, planning to make Hawaii the first state to require coverage for surrogates.

A quick look at internet sites offering treatment for infertility show a wide range of options for men, as well as women, including IVF, insemination, egg donations, sperm donations, and surrogacy. However, all the options are costly and most sites warn the procedures may not be effective the first, second or third time. Singles and same-sex couples must prepare for an expensive trip to parenthood. Most parents will tell you it's worth it. But all will admit its better if insurance covers the expenses.