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Dems to Biden: Go big on IVF

By Jennifer Haberkorn

Congressional Democrats are demanding President JOE BIDEN provide insurance coverage for in-vitro fertilization to all federal employees, arguing it would be one of the most concrete moves the administration can take after the Alabama state Supreme Court jeopardized access to such fertility treatments.

Currently, the insurance program that covers more than 8 million federal employees and their families across the country has limited coverage for IVF. That has forced many federal employees to assume tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical bills should they choose to pursue the treatment.

More than 175 House and Senate Democrats are now calling on the Office of Personnel Management to require IVF coverage in all Federal Employee Health Benefit insurance policies.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling — and the Alabama court decision which declared that embryos created by IVF should be considered children — Democrats are looking for ways to expand and protect IVF access.

Biden, in his State of the Union address, called on Congress to pass legislation guaranteeing the right to IVF treatment. But with a Republican-controlled House and the Senate filibuster in place, Democrats have little chance of passing such a law. So they want Biden to use other levers of the government instead.

“At a time when IVF is increasingly under attack by the extreme personhood movement, President Biden would send a strong message that his administration, in word and deed, are true champions of safeguarding the right of families to decide if, when and how to build a family,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter they are set to send to OPM on Monday and first shared with West Wing Playbook.

OPM has already taken some limited steps in this direction.

Last year, for the first time, the office required all health insurance plans to cover the medications associated with three cycles of IVF, but not the treatment itself. Last year also marked the first time a national insurance plan voluntarily covered IVF for federal employees. There are a few other regional plans in the FEHB program that cover IVF, but their availability is based on geography.

An administration official, when asked about the request, pointed to the IVF coverage implemented in 2024 health plans.

Rep. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-Va.), who led the letter with Sen. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-Ill.) and represents many federal employees in the Virginia suburbs of D.C., has been trying to bolster OPM’s insurance coverage for years.

“The Alabama ruling probably gives us more impetus. That’s why we have 100-plus signatures on the letter,” he said.

While a future administration can undo an OPM coverage decision, Connolly argues that once a benefits package is in place, it is politically difficult to take it away. We are witnessing the manifestation of this concept currently with the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats who signed the letter also underscored that if OPM were to mandate IVF coverage in FEHB — the largest employer-sponsored plan in the country — it would send a message to other health plan providers to do the same. That, in turn, would expand its reach.

“It’s much more than a drop in the bucket,” Connolly said of OPM’s ability to spread IVF coverage. “The Federal Employee Health Benefit Program is so big and has so much influence in the industry itself as a driver, that this will have significant — if we can get this mandated — ripple effects on lots of other insurers.”

To view this story as it appeared in POLITICO, click here
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