One in every eight couples face challenges while conceiving, according to survey data from Resolve, the National Fertility Association. With more than 9 million people eligible, the Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) Program, administered by the government, is the largest employer-sponsored health insurance program in the world. Yet, there is not a single FEHB carrier that offers a nationwide plan covering assisted reproductive technology, which includes all fertility treatments in which eggs or embryos are handled.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Reps. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C., and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, all Democrats, and Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, a Republican, are seeking to address that with the introduction of the Family Building FEHB Fairness Act on Tuesday, marking National Infertility Awareness Week. Nationally, about 2 percent of all infants born in the United States were the result of assisted reproductive technology.
“I think it’s important that federal employees have access to fertility treatments as an option in their health care,” Duckworth told The 19th. “I would not have my two girls without it. Without the miracle of IVF, I wouldn’t be a mom today, and there’s so many other people like me who might never have been able to start a family without IVF. … We’re starting to think of infertility as a condition that deserves treatment.”
Connolly said the new bill presents an opportunity for the federal government to lead by example in modernizing health care coverage to become the employer of choice for millions of Americans.
“Federal employees, like every American, should have the right to start and build a family,” Connolly said. “Yet right now, the FEHB program offers only limited and inconsistent coverage for assisted reproductive treatment. This must change.”
Duckworth and Connolly began their push in August 2022, when they wrote to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — the chief human resources agency for the federal government — and demanded more be done to expand access to these services and treatments.
Since then, there has been incremental progress. The agency recently announced that in 2024 all FEHB carriers will be required to cover artificial insemination, drugs associated with artificial insemination and IVF-related drug costs for three cycles annually.
Michael Thomas, the president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, called the proposed legislation the “final step” in ensuring that federal employees receive comprehensive care.
“The [Office of Personnel Management] has made great strides in mandating increasing coverage for fertility over the past few years, which I personally appreciate, but there is one more step to go,” Thomas said. “Congress must pass this bill to secure comprehensive fertility benefits for all federal employees so that they are supported in building the families that they choose.”
Duckworth said the proposed legislation would cover other IVF-related costs and expand coverage to all the different forms of assisted reproductive technology. The most common type of assisted reproductive technology by far is IVF, but there is also gamete intrafallopian transfer, zygote intrafallopian transfer and frozen embryo transfer.
The new legislation would also be a tool to help retain government employees, Duckworth said.
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“This bill is going to help us keep our workforce,” Duckworth said. “Private companies, civilian and non-governmental institutions are providing this as part of their health care. So we are losing government employees who would normally stay because they want to start a family and they’re suffering from infertility. They’re having to make this very difficult choice of leaving a life in the civil service to this country that they love and having to go work for companies that provide this treatment.”
Barbara Collura, the president and chief executive of Resolve, said the proposed bill is “long overdue,” particularly given that the U.S. government is the country’s largest employer. Collura said the National Infertility Association has been working with federal employees for years to advocate for change within their agencies and departments.
“We see this legislation as a response to the demands of employees today,” Collura said. “We’ve seen over 2 million people get insurance coverage through their employer because they asked for it over the last four years. So this is definitely a trend, a positive trend. We’re seeing large employers adding benefits, and it’s incredibly gratifying to see the federal government do the same. It’s a big deal.”