Lawmakers, doctors announce efforts to improve access to fertility care in PA

HARRISBURG, Dec. 14 – State lawmakers announced legislation to improve access to fertility care within Pennsylvania’s health care insurance marketplaces today.

“I am no stranger to this issue, since my wife Rachel and I have been attempting to start a family for about a decade,” Rep. Steve Malagari said. “I realize I have been blessed in many ways, with excellent insurance coverage and access to local specialists, but I realize I am also in the minority. This legislation addresses issues across our state in the treatment of infertility, which is a human struggle and cuts across all borders and boundaries.”   

House Bill 2142, also known as the PA Fertility Act, would guarantee fertility care in the state’s marketplaces, modernizing the state’s policies and helping workers, and people attempting to start a family.

“This bill is important because it would address the inability of thousands of people across the state to start a family,” Rep. Jennifer O’Mara said. “In vitro fertilization is too expensive for many people to afford out of pocket and should be covered by insurance like other medically necessary treatments. Coverage under a health care insurance plan would put the service within reach to tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians who are ready for a family but cannot afford the medical care. Every one of our neighbor states addresses this fundamental inequity, and I’m joining my colleagues to call for action on this vital issue.”

Malagari, O’Mara and Rep. Sara Innamorato are co-authors of the bill.

“In Pennsylvania, a family’s decision if and when to start a family shouldn’t be dependent on their employer, being independently wealthy, or relying on the charity of others,” Innamorato said.

The bill has also received support from lawmakers in the Senate.

“Planning a family can be extremely challenging,” said Cappelletti, who has introduced a companion bill, Senate Bill 989. “In my own experience, I have faced obstacles that I never imagined for myself. My hope is that this legislation will allow all Pennsylvanians to have the opportunity to start a family if they so choose.”

The state lawmakers were joined on stage by Dr. Samantha Butts from Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

“Prior to initiation of cancer treatments, patients have just days to weeks to organize the financial resources — sometimes thousands of dollars — that would allow them to move forward with fertility preservation options while they are processing a terrifying new cancer diagnosis,” Butts said. “There is limited to no opportunity to plan or save for this cost, but we can change that.”

Penn State Health and Dr. Christos Coutafaris from University of Penn and Penn Medicine also supported the bill.

“This bill can be transformative for Pennsylvanians,” Coutafaris said. “It affirms the right for all to building a family and it expunges a glaring inequality, because building a family should not depend on whether one can afford the treatment. I strongly believe that at the heart of this bill is a call for equity in the state of Pennsylvania, an equity that our surrounding states have already affirmed. And at a marginal cost of about a one dollar increase in premiums.”

Cumberland County resident and patient advocate Sheila Petersen and her husband Marc also joined in supporting HB 2142.

“After surgery [for endometriosis], I was told that moving forward I will most likely only be able to conceive via IVF,” Petersen said. “This news was heartbreaking. We’re out of money to allocate towards infertility, we’re drowning in student loan debt, and at 34 years old, I know my body is running out of time. We hate asking for money, but we hate the thought of giving up on becoming parents even more.

“Our infertility is why we are standing here before you today,” Petersen added. “We are asking on behalf of us both, and all of the Pennsylvanians struggling with infertility and fertility preservation, for your support of House Bill 2142. We are asking for you to help give us the medical coverage so many of us need in order to continue on in our journey to becoming parents."

Streaming video of Tuesday's press conference can be found here