New Legislation Aims to Expand Access to Fertility Care in Connecticut
HB 6617 would remove barriers to fertility care and ensure Connecticut residents have equitable access to the reproductive care they need to start a family.
Connecticut families and reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ advocates testified yesterday before the Human Services Committee in support of legislation that will promote equity in access to family building, fertility preservation, and reproductive health care. HB 6617, An Act Promoting Equity in Coverage for Fertility Health Care, is part of the legislative agenda for the state’s Reproductive Rights Caucus and is supported by the Fertility Access Connecticut (FACT) campaign.
Paying out-of-pocket for fertility care is not accessible for most people who do not have fertility insurance coverage. HB 6617 would address the limitations of Connecticut’s current law which excludes coverage for fertility care, including fertility preservation, entirely under HUSKY Health and typically excludes LGBTQ+ and single people from coverage requirements for private insurers.
“Connecticut residents should have the ability to make choices regarding reproduction, fertility, and family-building that are best for themselves and their families,” said Representative Jillian Gilchrest. “That includes being able to access and afford the medical care they need.”
“I’m proud of what Connecticut has done to update our laws to reflect our modern understanding of family, including LGBTQ+ families,” said Representative Jeff Currey. “HB 6617 would bring the state’s fertility insurance requirements up to speed with Connecticut’s other LGBTQ+-inclusive laws recognizing modern family formation.”
Under the current state mandate, private insurance companies are only required to cover fertility treatments for people diagnosed as “infertile.” Infertility is defined in reference to heterosexual intercourse, so LGBTQ+ and single people who need to access fertility care are often excluded. HB 6617 would expand the existing mandate to require coverage for LGBTQ+ and single individuals who need medical care to build their families, as well as people who are diagnosed infertile.
The bill would also require the state’s Medicaid program to provide coverage for fertility care for the first time. Research indicates that the current exclusion of coverage in HUSKY Health perpetuates racial disparities in access to fertility care in the state.
“While insurance mandates like the one we have in place today have increased access for some, they have failed to address stark racial disparities in utilization of fertility care services. Black and Latinx women are more likely than white women to experience infertility yet less likely to receive care once diagnosed,” said Katie Kraschel, Clinical Lecturer in Law for the Reproductive Rights and Justice Clinic at Yale Law School. “While this is a multi-dimensional problem, data shows that Black and Latinx people disproportionately access care through Medicaid and have been excluded from Connecticut’s law, so it’s not surprising these disparities persist when HUSKY is exempt from providing coverage.”
Powerful written testimony in support of the bill submitted to the Committee from medical practitioners described the devastating choices cancer patients insured by HUSKY Health can face between treatment and fertility preservation. One oncologist in New Haven shared the story of a patient who tragically lost her life after foregoing chemotherapy because she could not afford fertility preservation. Another told the story of a young patient who survived cancer and now lives with the distress of not being able to conceive a child. HB 6617 would ensure that fertility preservation in advance of cancer treatment would be covered by the state’s Medicaid program.
“Connecticut has shown its deep commitment to reproductive rights and to supporting children and families with past legislation including Public Act 22-19 and the Connecticut Parentage Act. HB 6617 is an essential next step,” said Polly Crozier, Director of Family Advocacy at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “By requiring insurance coverage for LGBTQ+ and single individuals who need medical care to build their families and by ending the exclusion of fertility care for families insured by HUSKY Health, HB 6617 will ensure that more Connecticut families have access to quality, timely fertility care.”
Kim Forte, a lesbian parent to seven-year-old twins, told the committee about the extensive emotional and financial cost she and her spouse bore to “prove” her infertility before her private insurance would cover the cost of IVF. Kim had to self-pay for 6 mos. of “intrauterine inseminations, something my doctors knew that given my age would likely not be successful.” The impact was $15,000 in out-of-pocket costs and the substantial physical and emotional toll of going through six unnecessary months of medical procedures – something that likely would not have been required if she had been in a heterosexual relationship.
“Connecticut has already made updates to other laws regarding modern family formation, and some of the state’s employers have voluntarily taken the initiative to provide comprehensive fertility care coverage,” said Matthew Blinstrubus, Executive Director of Equality Connecticut. “It’s time for the state’s fertility regulations to follow suit to ensure equitable access to fertility healthcare.”
“The inequity in coverage for fertility care is an urgent reproductive rights and justice issue in our state. All people deserve access to quality, affordable, and compassionate health care and the resources they need to make personal decisions about their bodies, lives, and futures, including if and when to start a family.” said Gretchen Raffa, Vice President, Public Policy, Advocacy and Organizing of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “HB 6617 will help ensure all people have the freedom and power to build their own families.”
In testimony on behalf of the Reproductive Rights Caucus, Co-Chair Representative Matt Blumenthal wrote that “Access to fertility treatment and services is vital to making [the fundamental right to family building] real for all people, including for single people, LGBTQ+ couples, and those with health conditions that impair their fertility… HB 6617 offers us an opportunity to address existing inequities and injustices around what it means to have a family, in all of its forms.”