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Will Obama Deal Lead to Free IVF?

Health advocates say President Barack Obama’s contraception compromise Friday, which requires insurance companies to provide birth control to employees, may boost efforts to mandate coverage for another reproductive issue: infertility.

By requiring insurance companies—and not employers—to offer free contraception to workers, the deal is a way to extend coverage to people who work for religious groups without forcing the organizations to pay for the contraceptives. The regulations, which give women access to birth control without co-pays or deductibles, could help make the case for covering fertility treatments such as IVF, says Kevin Flynn, president of Philadelphia-based HealthCare Advocates. “Someone is going to make the argument now you’re going to have to cover fertility,” he says.

Of course, not all advocates think today’s ruling will impact fertility treatments. Contraceptives are considered a form of preventive medicine that help improve women’s health and infant mortality rates, says Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center. Fertility treatments don’t fall under that umbrella, she says, and if they are covered on a broader scale it could likely be with a deductible or co-pay.

Still, others point out that “infertility,” or the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sex, is recognized as a disability by the American Disabilities Act. Indeed, currently 15 states have laws that require insurance companies to offer coverage for infertility treatments, according to Resolve: The National Infertility Association. And some advocates argue that the improved coverage of contraceptives may bring similar coverage to the rest of the nation. “If you’re going to mandate coverage for fertility controls, that includes both conception as well as prevention,” says  Dr. Jamie Grifo, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the NYU School of Medicine.

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