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Gov. Rauner extends health insurance to fertility preservation

Press Release - Monday, August 27, 2018

CHICAGO - Young cancer patients struggling for survival no longer have to give up the prospect of parenthood when they undergo potentially sterilizing treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. 
A new law (HB 2617) signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner amends the Illinois insurance code to require coverage of egg or sperm preservation, a well-established medical practice that gives hope to patients who receive life-saving cancer treatment that they can one day have their own children.
"Thousands of young Illinois adults of child-bearing age are diagnosed with cancer each year," said Rauner. "With this legislation, we give them a way to overcome the burden of high out-of-pocket expenses for egg or sperm freezing so they can preserve an option to have a family in the future."

The Oncofertility Consortium at Northwestern University was one of many health care providers who supported the precedent-setting legislation. Illinois is the third, and by far the largest, state in the U.S. to enact a law requiring insurance coverage of fertility preservation. Only Connecticut and Rhode Island have similar laws.

"Every day in Illinois, 18 young adults and children are diagnosed with cancer," said Teresa K. Woodruff, director of the Consortium, dean of the graduate school, and Watkins professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Feinberg School of Medicine.

"Today, the State of Illinois recognized that preserving fertility in the cancer setting is a medical need and that insurance should be provided to ensure young adults don't have to choose between life-preserving treatments and fertility interventions," she continued. "This is a win for science and more importantly, this is a win for families. This legislation will help young people and families make crucial decisions and help them afford the treatments."

As a consequence of the Oncofertility Consortium and the organization of this new field of medicine, a cancer diagnosis is no longer associated with the fatal loss of fertility. HB 2617 demonstrates that fertility preservation has transitioned from research to standard of care. Now, young cancer patients will have access to insurance resources for their medical and fertility treatments.

Rauner noted that the signing of HB 2617 capped off a year of extraordinary advances for health care in Illinois. The goal has been to use evidence-based strategies to deliver higher quality care and slow the growth in health care costs.

The highlights include a $2 billion Medicaid waiver — Better Care Illinois — to pilot a dozen service innovations in mental health and substance abuse. Illinois also has been aggressively expanding its fight against opioids with programs in prevention, treatment and emergency response. The Governor's Task Force on Medicaid Fraud has saved more than $450 million for Illinois taxpayers. Veterans and homeless veterans, physical therapy patients and the elderly have benefitted from greater access to care.

HB 2617 was widely supported by local and national health advocates, medical associations, insurance providers and nonprofits. Among them were the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Illinois State Medical Society, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Susan G. Komen Chicago and Gilda's Club.

"Fertility preservation options like egg and sperm banking are widely available but so often not considered a covered service as part of a patient's insurance plan," said Kristin N. Smith, program manager for fertility preservation at Northwestern Medicine Fertility and Reproductive Medicine. "HB 2617 changes that and allows patients to make decisions based on medical need, not their bank account. Young adult patients now have access top-notch care and our state is a leader in reproductive health care in the country."

"As an organization that supports women with breast cancer, we understand the importance of hope for all cancer patients," said Tiosha Bailey, executive director of Susan G. Komen Chicago. "This legislation will give cancer patients a better chance at having a biological family in the future."
"Cancer patients should not have to choose between effective medical treatment and having children," said LauraJane Hyde, CEO of Gilda's Club Chicago. "A greater number of young people are surviving cancer, but the treatment itself may render them infertile. Providing cancer patients with this family-building option of freezing eggs or sperm is a life-affirming action they can take that allows them a future chance at parenthood, giving them one less worry during their cancer journey."

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