Same-sex cou­ples seek equal ac­cess to in­sur­ance for fer­til­ity pro­ce­dures

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY CATHY BUSSEWITZ

HONOLULU | Sean Smith and his hus­band paid more than $20,000 for a fer­til­ity pro­ce­dure when they de­cided to have a child us­ing a sur­ro­gate mother. They did not know at the time that if they were a dif­fer­ent-sex cou­ple, they might have saved that money.

Now, Mr. Smith and other mem­bers of Hawaii’s les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der com­mu­nity, are lob­by­ing for equal ac­cess to the fi­nan­cial help that mar­ried, dif­fer­ent-sex cou­ples en­joy un­der state law.

They are push­ing leg­is­la­tion that would re­quire in­sur­ance com­pa­nies to cover in vitro fer­til­iza­tion for more cou­ples, in­clud­ing mak­ing Hawaii the first state to re­quire the cov­er­age for sur­ro­gates, which would help male same­sex cou­ples who must use a sur­ro­gate.

“Now that mar­riage equal­ity is the law of the land and is ac­cepted, now let’s turn to fam­ily build­ing, and let’s fig­ure out how we fix all these in­equities that ex­ist,” said Bar­bara Col­lura, pres­i­dent and CEO of Re­solve, a na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion that ad­vo­cates for ac­cess to fer­til­ity treat­ments.

Hawaii is one of eight states that re­quire in­sur­ance com­pa­nies to cover in vitro fer­til­iza­tion, a costly pro­ce­dure where a doc­tor re­trieves eggs from a woman, com­bines them with sperm from a man and then im­plants an em­bryo into a woman’s uterus.

But Hawaii’s man­date ap­plies only to mar­ried dif­fer­ent-sex cou­ples be­cause it cov­ers the medical in­ter­ven­tion only if a woman uses sperm from her spouse, leav­ing the LGBT com­mu­nity and sin­gle women be­hind.

“At the end of the visit, I would be go­ing into the of­fice and pulling out my credit card, and other peo­ple are prob­a­bly just walk­ing out and in­sur­ance is pick­ing up the tab,” Mr. Smith said. “We had to bor­row money, re­fi­nance a sec­ond mort­gage, and I’m sure there are peo­ple who don’t even ex­plore the op­tion be­cause the ex­penses are too great.”

The mea­sure pend­ing in the Hawaii Leg­is­la­ture re­moves re­quire­ments that the egg and sperm come from a mar­ried cou­ple and in­cludes sur­ro­gates among the peo­ple to be cov­ered.

No other state has in­cluded sur­ro­gates in their laws, Ms. Col­lura said.

“It is def­i­nitely ground­break­ing,” Ms. Col­lura said. “And it’s an of­ten­over­looked way that peo­ple choose to build their fam­ily, and it should not be left out. It’s great to see that Hawaii is tak­ing the lead.”

Kaiser Per­ma­nente Hawaii op­posed the mea­sure, say­ing the medical provider and in­surer does not per­form in vitro fer­til­iza­tion with donor eggs or sur­ro­gates be­cause of com­plex le­gal is­sues and medical risks.

The com­pany asked law­mak­ers to re­move egg donors and sur­ro­gates from the bill, say­ing re­quir­ing cov­er­age of ad­di­tional pro­ce­dures would raise costs for the com­pany and its cus­tomers.

A sim­i­lar mea­sure in Hawaii failed in pre­vi­ous leg­isla­tive ses­sions. But aside from Kaiser, the bill has seen lit­tle op­po­si­tion this year.

A broad coali­tion in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Hawaii, the Hawaii Civil Rights Com­mis­sion and the Demo­cratic Party of Hawaii are work­ing with LGBT groups to push for change. The pro­posal passed the state Se­nate and is up for a vote in the House this week.

Mary­land had a law that also ex­cluded same-sex cou­ples un­til about a year ago, when the leg­is­la­ture changed the pro­vi­sion so it no longer re­quired us­ing a hus­band’s sperm. That helped les­bian cou­ples, but gay men were still left out be­cause the law didn’t cover sur­ro­gates, Ms. Col­lura said.

Most state man­dates limit in­sur­ance re­im­burse­ment to a cer­tain num­ber of in vitro fer­til­iza­tion tri­als or al­low cov­er­age only af­ter years of in­fer­til­ity. Some states also al­low re­li­gious or small em­ploy­ers to get out of the re­quire­ment.

“We need to change these laws,” Ms. Col­lura said. “We need to up­date them and make them so that they are no longer dis­crim­i­na­tory.”

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