May 25, 2023 - Politics

Oregon fertility treatment coverage bill stalls again

Illustration of a stork holding a fountain pen in its beak.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Despite bipartisan support, a bill that would require that some insurers cover fertility treatment has once again stalled in Oregon's Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Why it matters: Oregon's fertility rate is one of the lowest in the country. Twenty other states have passed a mandate for insurers to cover fertility care, according to Resolve: The National Infertility Association.

  • But a similar measure has sat in the Oregon Senate's Rules Committee for the last two years without ever making it to the floor for a vote.

Driving the news: The bill appears likely to fizzle again as Senate Republicans continue their walkout, denying lawmakers a quorum and the ability to resume business. The legislative session ends on June 25.

  • Advocates were optimistic that it would pass this year because of the time they've spent meeting with lawmakers and drumming up public testimony.

Flashback: In the previous two sessions, the bill had support from both sides of the aisle in the committee but still failed to progress.

What they're saying: "Every session that we are not passing that bill, families and people are having their lives irrevocably changed," Stacy Ochoa, co-founder of Oregon Fertility Advocates, told Axios.

  • Democratic Sen. Kate Lieber, the chair of the Rules Committee, didn't respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Democratic Sen. Deb Patterson​, a chief sponsor of the bill, declined to comment on why majority Democrats haven't brought the measure to the floor.
  • Republican Sen. Cedric Hayden (R-Fall Creek), who voted in committee in favor of an exemption for religious insurers, told Axios that he likes "the concept of the bill."
  • Hayden said the fact that the measure has not moved from the Rules Committee for several sessions indicates it's ultimately up to the Democratic "leadership side whether they want to pass it or not."

Details: SB 491, also known as the Family Building Act, would mandate insurers in the Oregon marketplace to cover fertility treatments, including IVF, embryo transfers and intrauterine insemination.

The intrigue: In written testimony in February, the Catholic health care system Providence Health Plan, one of Oregon's largest insurers, opposed the bill, arguing it would interfere with its religious directives.

  • The exemption for religiously affiliated insurers was adopted by the committee later in March with no opposition from advocates.
  • "We were placing confidence in lawmakers to know the right solution to moving forward with so many attempts at this bill," Ochoa told Axios in an email.

Meanwhile, there's precedent for the measure; Oregon state employees gained access to fertility coverage in 2022, through the Public Employees' Benefit Board (PEBB).

What's next: Oregon Fertility Advocates are in the process of rallying residents to call and write their legislators in support of the bill.

  • "It's a bipartisan issue," Mollie Huyck, co-founder of Oregon Fertility Advocates, said. "Infertility doesn't see any of those political affiliations."

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