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05/04/2007

Also please ask your rep to play "Freebird"

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to give it up for HR 735!

(Now is when you applaud wildly, shout "Whooooo!" and make those rock 'n' roll devil horns with your hands.  I think those are simply adorable.)

Known as the Family Building Act of 2005, HR 735 calls for all group insurance plans to offer coverage for infertility diagnosis and treatment.  The bill, initially introduced by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and currently being revised and resubmitted for the new Congress, stipulates that if a plan covers obstetrical benefits, it must also provide "coverage for treatment of infertility deemed appropriate by a participant or beneficiary and the treating physician."  That's right: if they pay to see you through pregnancy, they also have to help you get that far.

(Now is when you thrash your head back and forth, lost to the pounding rhythm, body and mind enslaved by the insistent thrum of a relentless bass line.  While you are still disoriented, please also purchase a souvenir T-shirt.)

Some highlights:

  • The bill acknowledges in its opening lines that infertility affects approximately 10% of the reproductive-aged population; that the majority of insurance plans do not provide coverage for infertility treatment; and that "a fundamental part of the human experience is fulfilling the desire to reproduce."
  • The bill defines infertility as "a disease or condition that results in the abnormal function of the reproductive system," and encompasses not only those of us who can't conceive within a year, but those who can't carry a pregnancy to term.
  • The bill calls for coverage of up to four IVF retrievals, or, "if a live birth follows a completed oocyte retrieval, then at least 2 more completed oocyte retrievals shall be covered, with a lifetime cap of six retrievals."
  • The bill's definition of ART includes IVF, GIFT, ZIFT, embryo cryopreservation, egg or embryo donation, and surrogate birth.

(I think the time is right to hump the mic stand in a most theatrical fashion.)

Now, although infertile people share a particular life experience, we're not politically homogeneous.  Not all of us approve of universal insurance coverage for treatment.  That disagreement often stems from concerns about the rising cost of health care, particularly as it affects small businesses.  I'm not a serious student of the issue, so I can't speak with any authority, but a quick bit of research seems to indicate that the additional cost for this supplemental coverage would fall somewhere between $1 and $3 per member per month.  (RESOLVE suggests that coverage might actually reduce costs.)  I can understand, I suppose, why someone might not be eager to pay more every month to give someone else the chance to have a child.  I do understand; I just don't feel the same way.  Babies — or at least access to the most appropriate, most effective high-tech treatment — for all my friends!

(Now is when you either rush the stage, throw me into the first six rows of seats, and stomp the shit out of me in a frenzy of collective outrage, or lovingly wing your underpants — thong, boxer, or granny — at me.)

If you feel the same way and want to help the upcoming revision of HR 735 become law, here's what you need to do:

  1. Familiarize yourself with what the bill proposes so that you can speak or write persuasively in support of it.
  2. Contact your representative and ask that he or she co-sponsor the Family Building Act of 2007.  E-mail is good, a phone call is better, and a real letter — paper!  ink!  correct postage!  real human spit on the envelope flap! — is best of all.  (RESOLVE has a form letter you can send to your rep via e-mail; if you want to compose your own message, you can do so through his or her official site.  You can also find your rep's phone number and mailing address via the House's Web site.)
  3. Follow up.  A poster on IVFC who's active in infertility advocacy says, "It takes a lot of nagging to get anything done. You're all going to have to call and ask for the legislative aide covering health care policy in your congressperson's office a couple of times before they will even remember to look at it."  If you send a letter, she says, "Follow up after you send the original letter. I have spoken with legislative aides in congressional offices and they all say the same thing: because they get tons of letters asking for help, support, et cetera, it is difficult to give each one the attention they deserve, but when they get follow up phone calls, they are more likely to believe that it is important to the sender, rather than some form letter that they can ignore.  So please follow up with a phone call, ask to speak to the person handling insurance or health care issues, and tell them that this legislation is very important to you.  Tell them you would like a call back when they agree to co-sponsor it. And if you don't hear from them in two weeks, call again."

(That was the drum solo.  I say it rocked, and I'll brook no dissent.)

What will you say to your representative?  It's up to you, of course.  One poster at IVFC wrote this to hers:

I just came across the birth announcement for your beautiful baby girl online and wanted to write a note of congratulations. Seeing your face, and that of your wife, reflected in your child must be miraculous. Sadly, my husband and I may never know that joy because our insurance will not cover infertility treatment and the cost of self-financed care is high. Sir, I pray that the birth of your child will help you appreciate all the more what couples like us have lost and are losing and that you keep us in mind when the The Family Building Act is reintroduced in Congress. Couples like us, indeed all insured people, should have access to the medical treatments that can bring life into their lives and light into their hearts. May we all experience the the same joy, love and peace that you and your wife now know.

..."Ridiculously sappy," she added pragmatically, "but sure to appeal to a big flaming Republican" like her rep.

Oh, and it also wouldn't hurt to lift your shirt.  I hear the bassist really gets off on that.

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