Administered by the United States government, the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHB) is the largest employer-sponsored health insurance program in the world.
But, as The 19th’s Mariel Padilla recently pointed out, “there is not a single FEHB carrier that offers a nationwide plan covering assisted reproductive technology, which includes all fertility treatments in which eggs or embryos are handled.”
Newly proposed legislation aims to change that.
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Va.-11) recently introduced the Family Building FEHB Fairness Act, which would “expand and protect access to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technology (ART) that millions of Americans need to have children, including Senator Duckworth, who relied on IVF to have her two daughters,” according to a statement from Duckworth’s office announcing the bill’s introduction. The legislation would oblige FEHB program carriers to cover IVT and ART, and would give the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) one year from the date of the bill’s enactment to implement its requirements.
“With Roe v. Wade thrown out by the Supreme Court and Republicans actively working to roll back basic reproductive freedoms, many Americans—including those who may have trouble getting pregnant—are understandably worried about their access to IVF and other assisted reproductive technology that they need to start or grow their families,” said Duckworth.
“One More Step to Go”
Co-led in the House by U.S. Representatives from both sides of the aisle, the bill’s introduction comes less than one year after Duckworth, Connolly and two dozen other Senators and House members wrote a letter to OPM Director Kiran Ahuja, urging the agency to cover infertility diagnosis and treatment.
“The choice to build a family is a fundamental right for all Americans. People should not have to take on substantial medical debt to grow a family,” the lawmakers wrote in the August 2022 letter. “Yet, despite the prevalence of infertility and diversity of family structures, the Federal Employee Health Benefits program … currently only offers limited infertility treatment, and it is often prohibitively expensive.”
OPM has made “incremental progress” in the roughly eight months since receiving that letter, “but much more remains to be done,” according to the aforementioned statement issued by Duckworth’s office, which notes that only 19 FEHB plans currently offer some level of ART coverage. “And these plans vary greatly in terms of which specific services and treatments are included.”
A handful of organizations providing fertility advocacy and resources have voiced their support for the bill, urging lawmakers to ensure its passage.
Saying that now is the time for accessible fertility treatment, Michael Thomas, MD, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, called the Family Building FEHB Fairness Act the final step in guaranteeing that federal employees have comprehensive reproductive health insurance coverage.
“The OPM has made great strides in mandating increasing coverage for fertility over the past few years, which I personally appreciate,” said Thomas, in a statement. “But there is one more step to go. Congress must pass this bill to secure comprehensive fertility benefits for all federal employees so that they are supported in building the families that they choose.”
As the largest employer in the U.S., the federal government “serves as a leader in taking care of its employees; with passage of the Family Building FEHB Fairness Act, those last barriers to accessing medical care for family building will be removed,” said Barbara Collura, president and CEO of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, in a statement. “Let’s not delay in getting this bill passed for all American families.”
17 May 2023
HR News Article