Patient Advocacy Spotlight: Legislation to Guarantee Fertility Services for Patients
Undergoing Certain Medical Treatments to Become Law
A bill requiring certain health insurers to provide health benefits coverage for those who are going through chemotherapy and other treatments known to be harmful to the reproductive system passed both houses of the New Jersey Legislature and awaits signing into law. Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt and Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake were the prime sponsors.
Under current law, health insurance companies are not required to cover fertility services for patients who require medical treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery that could directly or indirectly damage their reproductive system. The legislation (A-3150) would guarantee insurance coverage for standard services such as gonadal shielding and embryo cryopreservation for patients receiving necessary treatments that might cause infertility.
SMG Breast Surgeon Dr. Priya Jadeja, fortuitously met Assemblywoman Timberlake in July of 2018, shortly after diagnosing three young women in their 20s and 30s with breast cancer, which would require chemotherapy and likely result in infertility. All three declined consultation with reproductive specialists due to lack of insurance coverage and financial barriers. One of her patients, 34-year-old “Anastasia,” was so fearful of the effect of chemotherapy on her fertility, she elected alternative treatment against physician recommendation. The lack of insurance coverage led her to risk her life for alternative treatments that ultimately failed. And since then, she’s completed chemotherapy, but she’s had to liquidate all her savings and her home loan to pursue egg harvesting.
“No one should have to make the same risky decision that I did or be forced to give up their right to have a family just because they can’t afford it,” says Anastasia. “Dr. Jadeja is not only insanely good at what she does, she is the type of outstanding human being that advocates for this type of legislation, that I consider life or death.”
Dr. Jadeja, who shared these accounts with Assemblywoman Timberlake, was invited to the Legislative Assembly Session on December 16 to ceremoniously cast the vote on behalf of Assemblywoman Timberlake. Anastasia was also in attendance as her brave story was illustrated during the session. The bill passed unanimously and now awaits the Governor’s signature to pass as law.
“Thank you, Dr. Priya Jadeja, so much for your advocacy on this very important issue,” said Assemblywoman Timberlake. “When someone requires a life-saving treatment, they shouldn’t have to choose between daunting medical bills or never having a family. Guaranteeing insurance coverage is one way we can help alleviate patients’ financial concerns and allow them to make their decision based on what they want rather than what they can afford.”