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June 24, 1999 

Council urges members to step up opposition to infertility mandate bill
Proposed health mandate is among most costly being considered in Albany this year

Business Council members are urging lawmakers to reject a proposed new health-care mandate that would require employers' health-insurance benefits to cover infertility treatments.

"This legislation is among the most expensive mandates of the dozens under consideration by the legislature this year," The Council told members in an "urgent alert" sent June 22 urging them to voice their opposition to the bill.

"National studies on infertility mandates have estimated the impact on premiums to be 3 percent to 5 percent," The Council wrote to its members.

"This added cost is on top of general rising costs of coverage, making coverage less affordable for many employers and placing them at a competitive disadvantage with businesses from other states that don't face this added cost."

Because most small companies cannot afford to self-insure to escape the mandates, the cost of mandates typically falls most on small businesses, which can neither escape nor afford them, The Council noted.

Two-thirds of uninsured New Yorkers either work for such employers or have someone in the family who does, said Elliott Shaw. For this reason, he added, mandates are very discouraging to the very employers that New York most wants to encourage to offer insurance.

Infertility mandates are especially costly, Shaw noted. The treatments are expensive, and multiple treatments are often needed to achieve a successful pregnancy. In some cases, the treatments result in multiple births, requiring additional, very expensive medical care.

In its message, The Council also noted that the mandate is inconsistent with the conclusions of a state task force that examined the question of mandates and health-care policy.

"The New York State Task Force on Life and the Law recognized there are limits to what employers and employees can afford in their health benefit packages when it recommended against this type of mandate," the message said.

That task force concluded that "as a society, our first goal must be to expand access to health care to those without insurance and to ensure a basic package of health-care benefits that takes into account a broad range of health-care needs.

"We simply cannot justify legislation giving special priority to assisted reproduction when so many other basic health-care needs remain unmet."

The bill has passed the Assembly. The Council urged members to contact their Senators to oppose this mandate.

Opposition to the mandate has been diverse and widespread.

Other advocacy groups that oppose the mandates include associations representing small business, municipalities, health insurance plans, and HMOs. In addition, about a dozen newspapers across the state have opposed the proposed mandate in editorials.