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Senate Bill 729 to Increase Access to Fertility Care for Millions of Californians Postponed to 2024 by Assembly Appropriations Committee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- State Senator Caroline Menjivar's (D-San Fernando Valley) Senate Bill 729, sponsored by California State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, was converted to a two-year bill by the California State Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday. The bill can be considered again as early as January 2024. SB 729 would require large group health plans to provide coverage for fertility care, including treatment for infertility and in vitro fertilization (IVF) - expanding access, improving care, and removing economic barriers for millions of eligible Californians.

SB 729 passed the state Senate in May by a large margin of 31-3 and advanced out of the Assembly Health Committee in August. Fourteen states have passed IVF insurance laws.

"A two year bill is not the outcome we hoped for, but it does allow us to continue our fight," said Senator Menjivar. "SB 729 progressed farther in the legislative process than any similar bills attempting to decrease inequities in fertility care coverage, which is why I am optimistic and will not give up. Californians who wish to build a family deserve equity and justice, not the current discriminatory law that withholds the safest and most reliable methods of fertility care from many of them. Soon, we will make California the true leader in reproductive justice."

According to a recent report, the World Health Organization estimates 1 in 6 people globally experience infertility. Lack of insurance coverage for fertility services is the most significant barrier to creating a family.

"Infertility affects people of all socioeconomic levels, racial identities, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities, and religious beliefs," said Insurance Commissioner Lara. "As someone who has fought for affordable and more equitable access to healthcare services during my time in the California State Legislature and as Insurance Commissioner, I am proud to co-sponsor SB 729 to ensure fair and equal access to fertility treatments."

"I remain committed to this important issue that unfairly impacts so many Californians," said State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), who has introduced several pieces of legislation since 2019 to address this issue. "Paying out of pocket for infertility treatment imposes an insurmountable financial burden on the LGBTQ+ population and others whose insurance does not cover this medically-necessary care. We must address this gap in our healthcare system."

In addition to protecting against exclusionary insurance coverage for infertility, SB 729 ensures cancer patients are eligible for IVF insurance to complete their family building after preserving their eggs, sperm, or embryos under SB 600. In 2019, SB 600 passed to provide insurance coverage for fertility preservation for patients with medical indications.

"Nobody should be faced with the heartbreaking choice of deciding whether to have a child or to get lifesaving treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation, which can impact fertility," said State Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank), who introduced SB 600. "SB 600 helped give cancer patients a path to preserve their fertility. SB 729 is the crucial next step in our fight for California families."

"Infertility is recognized as a disease by the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and The American Society for Reproductive Medicine," said Dr. Marcelle Cedars, the Immediate Past President of American Society for Reproductive Medicine and Director of UCSF Center for Reproductive Health. "Yet California continues to set infertility apart from other diseases in one basic, shameful way - by allowing insurance companies to diagnose but not to comprehensively treat."

"Our state is a leader in reproductive freedom, but we're lagging behind when it comes to ensuring that all people who want to have children are able to do so," said NARAL Pro-Choice California Director Shannon Olivieri Hovis. "California's existing law is grossly inadequate; coverage for fertility and infertility treatment is the only element of reproductive care excluded from insurance coverage. By excluding IVF alone, it leaves out the most effective treatment for infertility."

"No one should have to choose between their livelihood and their aspiration to become a parent, including members of the LGBTQ+ community," said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. "SB 729 is a long overdue step to expand access to fertility coverage for all Californians and remove discriminatory language from our state's insurance laws. We are grateful to Senator Menjivar for being such a fierce champion for LGBTQ+ families and look forward to continuing this fight with her next year."

In addition to Insurance Commissioner Lara, the bill is cosponsored by RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association; NARAL Pro-Choice California; The Alliance for Fertility Preservation; Equality California; American Society for Reproductive Medicine; and Our Family Coalition. SB 729 has received the endorsement of more than 65 non-profits, associations, and organizations across the state, as well as thousands of advocate letters to lawmakers voicing support for the bill.

Learn more about Senator Caroline Menjivar (D-San Fernando Valley) at: https://sd20.senate.ca.gov/

CITATIONS:

https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/978920068315

Related link: https://sd20.senate.ca.gov/

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