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Proposed legislation would require coverage for infertility treatment

Andy and Rachel Wilke’s story turned out fine.

But the journey was far from easy.

A medical issue forced the Wilkes to use the costly — and at times emotional — process of in vitro fertilization. They now have two young children.

“Our family feels whole and our hearts are mending through the trauma we all endured. We’re grateful for the medical technology available to make our dreams come true. We want more families in Minnesota to get the same chance we had without significant financial burden,” Rachel Wilke told the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee Wednesday during an informational hearing of HF3465.

Sponsored by Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Mpls), the bill would require every health plan that provides maternity benefits to Minnesotans to also provide coverage for infertility treatment considered medically necessary by a health care provider.

The process can be pricey. The Wilke’s took out a $25,000 loan; others have taken out second mortgages.

“Currently, fertility treatment is limited to those fortunate enough to be able to afford it or go into debt or raise money for those expenses,” Long said.

He said it is estimated that 10% of women have a fertility issue, and that is why 17 states have passed laws similar to his bill. Andy Wilke said nearly half of all cases are due to male-factor infertility.

“This bill would have Minnesota join these states in providing needed medical coverage, and, more importantly, in providing hope to so many Minnesota families,” Long said.

Rep. Tama Theis (R-St. Cloud) would also like to see mental health support covered for couples dealing with fertility issues, and may be experiencing guilt, self-blame or regret.

“We need to do it right and have support for them for all their needs, not just physical,” she said.   

Yet to be determined is what the proposed change would do to health care premium increases.

Rep. Jordan Rasmusson (R-Fergus Falls) suggested, and Long agrees, the proposal should be submitted to the Department of Commerce for a benefit mandate review process.

In addition to unknown costs, the Minnesota Council of Health Plans expressed concern about fairness.

“The bill would not apply to Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare,” wrote President and CEO Lucas Nesse. “If the committee and Legislature ultimately decide to apply this mandate to the commercial market, it should be equally applied to insurance products subsidized by the state designed to serve low-income Minnesotans and those living with a disability.”

Laura Elm, whose insurance work included IVF centers, spoke in opposition. She noted some of the industry’s “critical failings,” including the number of embryos created can lead to “unscrupulous lab practices;” how many “embryonic human beings” are in frozen storage, labs and warehouses; and instances of embryos being lost or transferred to another family.

“Before we require insurance plans to cover IVF, we must first recognize the industry’s failings and, I hope, put reform plans in place to address them,” she said.

The companion, SF3394, sponsored by Sen. Melissa Wiklund (DFL-Bloomington), awaits action by the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee.

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