Report: Illinois hospital chain won't cover fertility treatment for LGBTQ workers
Driving the news: OSF HealthCare limited its definition of fertility for coverage to "the inability for a married couple of opposite-sex spouses to conceive," per documents obtained by Bloomberg Law.
- The coverage seeks to assist "married opposite-sex spouses" trying to have a child, per the new definition.
- The hospital chain employs more than 24,000 people at 15 hospitals and 132 other facilities.
- "The employee benefits we provide are driven by the OSF Mission and are in full compliance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services as well as state and federal laws, including the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act," a spokesperson for OSF HealthCare said in a statement.
- Representatives from BlueCross/BlueShield of Illinois did not immediately return an Axios request for comment.
Why it matters: Some lawyers are saying that the new OSF coverage policy, which explicitly denies employees coverage based on their sexual orientation violates federal discrimination laws, Bloomberg Law notes.
- Many health plans that cover fertility treatment follow the CDC definition of infertility, which includes people who are not able to get pregnant after at least a year of unprotected sex.
What they're saying: Peter Romer-Friedman, an attorney at Gupta Wessler PLLC, said that the policy is a "pretty clear violation" of federal workplace discrimination law, Bloomberg Law reports.
- Noel León, an attorney with Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, said she had not heard of a policy "so explicit" in excluding same-sex couples.
The other side: OSF, which is owned and run by the religious order Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, has the right to define employee coverage to its own standards, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group, told Bloomberg Law.
- "The government cannot force religious health care providers to violate their beliefs,” senior counsel Matt Bowman said in a statement.
- "Even if government officials disagree with the beliefs of a Catholic health care entity, the organization still has the freedom to provide insurance policies and health care services consistent with its convictions."
Go deeper... Rising workplace benefit: Fertility services
Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from OSF HealthCare.