Maryland same-sex couples who wanted to take advantage of a state law that requires insurers to cover pricey in vitro fertilization treatments used to face insurmountable obstacles. The law generally mandated that couples demonstrate a history of infertility of at least two years’ duration, and insurers often interpreted that to mean having intercourse during that time without conceiving. What’s more, by law, coverage would be permitted only for infertility treatments that used the husband’s sperm.
This month, however, those restrictions were eliminated for married same-sex couples under a new law. It also prohibits insurers – when they cover other types of fertility treatments — from applying those conditions to same-sex couples. The law doesn’t change the IVF coverage rules for married, heterosexual couples.
Maryland requires insurers to cover only in vitro fertilization, not other forms of infertility treatment. The procedure involves fertilizing an egg with sperm outside the woman’s body and then implanting it in her uterus.
“We were not seeking to change the scope of the mandate,” says Jer Welter, deputy director and managing attorney at FreeState Legal, which provides free legal assistance to Maryland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. “What we were interested in was parity and equality. If married opposite-sex couples were entitled to the benefit, married same-sex married couples should be entitled to it as well.”
Both houses of the Maryland legislature passed the legislation by large margins. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan allowed the bill to become law without his signature in June.
Currently, 15 states require some sort of coverage for infertility treatment. However, just eight states mandate coverage of IVF treatment, according to Resolve, an infertility advocacy group. Maryland’s old law was among the most restrictive, but other states may also need to revise their laws to ensure equality for same-sex and opposite-sex couples, says Barbara Collura, president and CEO of Resolve.
Now that the Supreme Court has made marriage equality a reality for same-sex couples, “getting family-building equality is the next frontier,” Collura says.
Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.