The following article appeared in the February 9, 2000 edition of the New York Times.

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February 9, 2000

State Senate Approves Bill To Insure Some Treatments for Infertility

By Raymond Hernandez
Albany, NY -- The Republicans in the state Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would require health insurance companies to pay for some infertility treatments, potentially setting the stage for negotiations with Assembly Democrats who have adopted their own version of the legislation.

The move prompted Democratic leaders of the Assembly to call for the creation of a conference committee of lawmakers appointed by both houses to iron out the differences between the Senate and Assembly plans.

But the prospects of a compromise seemed murky Tuesday. Among other things, the two sides disagree on a provision in the Senate bill that would potentially deny the proposed benefits to employees of the Roman Catholic Church and any other group with religious objections to some infertility treatments.

John McCardle, a spokesman for Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, said the Senate's leadership would be willing to negotiate with Democrats in the Assembly, if they dropped their objection to that provision.

"We are open to discussing this issue," McCardle said. "But what we are not open to is forcing religious groups to adhere to practices that they oppose on moral grounds."

But Patricia Lynch, a spokeswoman for Sheldon Silver, the Democratic speaker of the Assembly, asserted that the provision was unacceptable, saying it thwarted the overall goal of the bill that the Assembly passed on Monday: providing coverage for families that needed infertility treatment.

"It's nonnegotiable," she said. "It is a poison pill that undermines the heart and soul of the legislation we want to enact."

Both the Senate and Assembly plans would require health insurance companies and health maintenance organizations to pay for the diagnosis and treatment of infertility. Both bills are opposed by insurance companies and by employers who pay premiums and are concerned that the mandated coverage would increase the cost of those premiums.

The treatments covered under both bills include hormone drug therapy,  artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization and gamete and embryo donation.

But there are several other differences between the two bills. The Senate version would limit the mandated benefit to $60,000, but the Assembly bill has no cap. In addition, the Senate bill applies only to people between 25 and 44; the Assembly bill has no age restriction.

The Senate bill also says that insurance coverage must be provided for infertility treatment only if there is a "reasonable expectation that treatment will result in a healthy child." The Assembly bill has no such language. Groups pushing for mandatory insurance coverage for infertility treatments believe that such a provision is unnecessary.

Copyright 3000 The New York Times Company

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