New group pushing Tennessee lawmakers to pass infertility coverage legislation in 2021

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new Tennessee advocacy group wants to expand insurance benefits for those who suffer from infertility and is pushing lawmakers to pass legislation in 2021.

Mollie Walker of Collierville co-founded the group.

“I myself struggled with conceiving and needed medicine to help with ovulation and also had a rare blood clotting disease,” she said.

Doctors diagnosed Walker with infertility. After that, she and her husband spent thousands of dollars to get pregnant.

They’re not alone. She’s now connected with thousands of Tennesseans facing infertility as well.

“We have stories of a man having testicular cancer and needing to have his sperm frozen so he can try to conceive his own child one day. We have people born without a uterus. We have had some that just have PCOS or endometriosis,” she said. “With one in six couples going through infertility, a third being female, a third being male and a third unexplained or both, it is very common.”

19 states require or have passed infertility insurance laws, with six of them passing new legislation since 2018. Walker and friend Lauren Brown founded Tennessee Fertility Advocates because she wants to add her state to the list. She’s looking for state representatives with a personal connection to the issue to sponsor her cause.

“We want this to be the greatest pro-family bill the state of Tennessee has ever seen. So we are going to do all we can to get the momentum going,” she said.

She knows passing any insurance bill will have challenges. We asked what she’ll say to companies who say they increased coverage would be too expensive.

She said often times, couples who don’t have infertility benefits end up spending more on medical care.

“If you are going through infertility without coverage, you are more likely to transfer multiple embryos which will then cost more in the long run,” she said. “Research from other states that have coverage, even from employers, shows there is so much cost saving benefits when infertility is covered. People can get treatment when they need it instead of waiting 5 years to save.”

She also emphasized infertility as a medical condition.

“My mom is a type one diabetic and she needs insulin to live. People going through infertility, it’s no different than diabetics or cancer patients needing chemo,” she said.

Since the group started last summer, it has also worked with employers to expand benefits. As a result of their advocates’ work, Walker said St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and ALSAC plan to offer infertility benefits to employees starting in 2021.

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