Years of advocacy have finally paid off in a big way with Governor Andrew Cuomo proposing legislation that will give more New Yorkers much needed access to fertility treatments.
Included as part of the 2019 Women’s Justice Agenda, the governor’s proposal would require large insurance group providers to cover the often prohibitive cost of in vitro fertilization. The high price tag for the procedure, which can be as much as $15,000 or more per attempt in New York, frequently prevents couples who struggle with infertility from seeking the treatment, which is cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology.
New York State enacted an infertility mandate in the 1990s, which was further updated in 2002 to include diagnostic treatment and intra-uterine insemination, but did not cover the cost of IVF. The first “test tube baby,” was born via IVF in England in 1978 and since that time, millions of babies have been born worldwide using the medical technology.
“This is not an experimental procedure by any means and in many cases IVF is the only treatment for certain causes of infertility,” Risa Levine, a board member at Resolve, the National Infertility Association, told The Jewish Press. “We have been trying for many years to get IVF covered and we need good people pursuing a change in the law as well as good legislators.”
Levine commended Cuomo for his support on women’s issues and said that while the governor and the Assembly both supported insurance coverage for IVF over the past several years, stumbling blocks arose each year in the Senate. With Democrats now holding a Senate majority, Levine said that advocates remained hopeful that the long awaited legislation would finally be approved. Several changes were made to the bill as it made its way through the legislative process, with the final version including coverage for three IVF cycles in cases where it is deemed medically necessary. The bill also requires, large, small and individual insurance providers to cover the cost of fertility preservation for men and women who will be undergoing medical treatment that causes infertility.
The bill will be the largest increase in infertility insurance coverage in New York State in 17 years, observed Levine.
“This expands the overall pool of people who will have access to coverage by 2.5 million individuals,” said Levine. “But with another 2 million covered by small and individual group plans that will not have access to this coverage, we are not quitting even as we celebrate. Our goal is to increase care and that is what we are fighting for.”
The Women’s Justice Agenda has already passed the Assembly and the Senate and Governor Cuomo has indicated that he will sign it into law.
A TIME founder/director of member services Brany Rosen has spent the last 30 years advocating for greater coverage of infertility services. She recalled a lobbying trip to Albany that took place approximately 25 years ago, where her small group paled by comparison next to a mission that included thousands of people marching in orange sweatshirts as they advocated for more library books.
“At one point someone in our group turned to one of the legislators and asked ‘it’s really nice to have more books in the library, but wouldn’t it be better if we had kids to come to the library?’” said Rosen.
Rosen has seen the struggle to pay for IVF firsthand, noting that people give up their chance to own a home in their quest to become parents. She described the coverage allocated for fertility preservation as a major victory but wishes that IVF coverage had been further expanded.
“It’s a win, but not enough of a win,” said Rosen. “We are going to keep fighting for more.”
Resolve has worked closely with both A TIME and Agudath Israel of America for infertility funding in New York State. Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Agudath Israel of America’s vice president for community affairs, welcomed the allocations.
“This started as a dream and we never anticipated this kind of success,” said Rabbi Lefkowitz. “This is something that many people said could never be accomplished and having these kinds of services now available and covered by insurance will be a tremendous benefit to our community.”