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Time running out for veterans' fertility bill

Dec. 10, 2012 - 01:53PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 10, 2012 - 01:53PM  |  
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The clock is running on a $568 million Senate bill that would expand infertility treatment for veterans, including vitro fertilization treatments at an estimated cost of $15,000 per user.

If the bill doesn't pass the Senate and House by year's end, it will vanish on Jan. 3 when a new session of Congress convenes. Legislation left hanging from a previous Congress dies when the new session begins.

The Women Veterans' and Other Health Care Improvements Act of 2012, passed by the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee in September and awaiting a vote by the full Senate, would break new ground in providing fertility assistance in cases where a veteran has suffered service-connected injuries that make natural reproduction difficult or impossible.

It would cover assisted reproductive technology, such as vitro fertilization, including both the treatments and delivery of an infant if the treatment is successful. Female veterans, the spouses of veterans and surrogates would be eligible.

The per-pregnancy cost of the proposed benefit would be high, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It estimates that about 560 pregnancies a year, at an average cost of $52,000 each, would result from the assisted reproductive treatments. About one-third of those receiving the treatment would become pregnant, according to the CBO cost estimate.

In addition to fertilization treatment, the bill, S 3313, would pay adoption costs for severely wounded veterans with service-connected disabilities related to infertility. Veterans would receive reimbursement for costs associated with up to three adoptions as long as the expenses did not exceed the expense of one cycle of vitro fertilization or another assisted reproductive treatment. That would be about $15,000.

The provisions would not take effect right away. If the legislation passed now, the first fertility treatments would not be covered before late 2014 because the Veterans Affairs Department would have up to 18 months to establish program rules.

A companion bill, HR 6527, was introduced in the House on Sept. 21 by Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash, where no action has occurred. Even if the measure somehow passed the Senate before the end of the year, it could easily die from inaction in the House, according to congressional aides tracking veterans' legislation.

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