On January 20, DC Councilmember Christina Henderson reintroduced a bill that would mandate that fertility treatments be covered by private insurers, Medicaid and the DC Healthcare Alliance. The Expanding Access to Fertility Treatment Amendment Act of 2022 aims to reduce the barriers to fertility treatment options like in vitro fertilization, which can run DC residents $20,000 for one cycle.
Henderson says she was inspired by hearing from many women in the District who needed IVF to start a family and ended up taking second jobs at employers like Starbucks and Amazon, which offer insurance for fertility treatments. “For as progressive a city as it is, and in the nation’s capital where we have a lot of workers here who choose to start their families later in life, it was surprising to me that we didn’t require any type of coverage, and I want to right that wrong,” Henderson tells Washingtonian.
Henderson, who is chair of the Council’s Health Committee, introduced the legislation last year, but it didn’t get through committee and had to be reintroduced this year. She’s made some major changes to the bill, like the inclusion of a coverage mandate for fertility preservation treatments in the circumstance that someone has to go through treatment like chemotherapy, which may reduce their fertility. Also in the updated bill, insurers will be required to cover only three IVF cycles, which include egg retrieval. Unlimited embryo transfers will be covered. Additionally, there will be coverage for third parties, so those who use a surrogate will have their costs covered.
The Washington area has a high concentration of fertility clinics, including multiple locations of the largest one in the country, Shady Grove Fertility Clinic. Maryland and West Virginia have joined a number of states that have already adopted similar mandates. In those states with mandated insurance coverage, there has been an uptick in people using fertility treatments.
Henderson says this bill also aims to confront the issue of inequality in fertility treatment. Black and brown women are much less likely to seek treatment, though research suggests they may be more likely to experience infertility. When cost barriers are reduced, Black women are far more likely to use fertility treatments, according to the AMA Journal of Ethics.
There is support from other councilmembers on the bill: Lewis George co-sponsored it, and Kenyan R. McDuffie, Zachary Parker, Robert C. White, Jr., Janeese Lewis George, Charles Allen, Matthew Frumin, Brooke Pinto, and Brianne K. Nadeau co-introduced it. The next step for the bill is to be marked up by the Committee on Health and the Committee on Business and Economic Development, which Henderson hopes to complete by March, and then be sent to the full council where it will be voted on twice. The public portion of coverage will then need to be funded, and the costs sent to insurers.
In California, Henderson says, insurance rates went up only $0.92 per month per person after the state’s fertility treatment mandate was implemented, and she anticipates a similar increase in DC.