February 23, 2010

In vitro coverage expansion bill passes Senate

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By Erich Wagner
Erich@MarylandReporter.com

The Senate passed a provision narrowly expanding the mandated coverage of in vitro fertilization by health insurers, just a week after a tie vote by the body left the bill in limbo.

The bill passed by a 25-20 vote, with the support of Senate President Mike Miller, who did not vote on the measure when it met with a 23-23 tie last week. He had originally suggested that the bill might go too far, and said last week that if couples want to have a child through in vitro fertilization, “they can pay” for it.

The debate over the measure focused on whether it was wise to make such a narrow exception to a general rule that in vitro fertilization should only be covered between a husband and wife. Now, it is difficult for couples to use donated sperm for in vitro fertilization.

But Sen. Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, said the bill would only affect a small number of couples.

“I just don’t understand why we’re doing a health insurance mandate in the code for what amounts to a couple individuals, when there are a whole range of other people who need the exact same procedure for various and sundry reasons,” Zirkin said.

This bill would extend coverage of in vitro fertilization only in the case of a combination of two specific fertility complications.

Sen. Middleton, D-Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles, said the bill came about because two constituents in Sen. Joan Conway’s Baltimore City district have the specified combination of conditions.

“This only applies to this particular circumstance,” Middleton said. “We don’t have anything in the bill that would expand it. Right now this is the only issue before us.”

In order for a bill to pass, it must get a majority of support, but supporters used a procedural motion to reconsider the bill, giving them time to shore up the votes needed to secure the proposal’s passage.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.