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California adds same-sex couple fertility mandate

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Unmarried and same-sex couples will be ensured the same access to insurance coverage for fertility treatments as heterosexual couples under a bill Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown announced signing Tuesday.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 460, clarifies the non-discrimination provision of an existing state law that requires health plans to offer coverage for fertility treatments, except for in vitro fertilization.

Despite the existing law, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said many same-sex couples have been denied the coverage. In praising Brown’s signature on his bill, Ammiano said reproductive medicine should be for the benefit of everyone.

“To restrict fertility coverage solely to heterosexual married couples violates California’s non-discrimination laws,” he said in a statement. “I wrote this bill to correct that.”

Neither Ammiano’s office nor advocacy groups that supported the bill could say how many same-sex couples might be denied coverage in a given year in California but said it’s a common complaint. Even without in vitro fertilization, fertility treatments are expensive, costing hundreds or thousands of dollars per cycle.

Under state law, insurance companies are required to offer at least some plans that provide coverage for those treatments. Ammiano’s bill makes it clear that everyone who purchases such a plan, either individually or through group insurance, is entitled to that benefit.

Ammiano spokesman Carlos Alcala said the assemblyman carried the bill because he knows people who had difficulty getting coverage.

The California Association of Health Plans, which represents insurers, says its initial concerns with the legislation were addressed and it took no position on the final version.

“I think that the plans will move forward and implement the law,” association spokeswoman Nicole Evans said.

One complication facing same-sex couples is that insurance coverage for fertility treatments typically does not kick in until couples have tried to conceive naturally for 12 months. That’s not possible for same-sex couples, who might face treatments costing tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket before coverage would apply, said Judy Appel, executive director of Our Family Coalition, a San Francisco-based group that advocates for same-sex couples and supported Ammiano’s bill.

The new law, which takes effect in January, states that insurance plans offering coverage for fertility treatments cannot discriminate on any basis, including “domestic partner status, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, marital status … sex or sexual orientation.”

Appel said the governor’s signing of the bill lifts a huge emotional and financial barrier to same-sex couples seeking to start a family.

“We have the right to marry now and this is further support for us to be able to create families,” she said.

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