AUGUSTA, Maine — Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, a Lisbon Republican known for taking socially conservative positions, has introduced a bill that would require health insurance providers in Maine to include coverage for infertility treatments as long as the patient is married and is not infertile as the result of a sexually transmitted disease.

Those two provisions in the bill designed to reduce barriers to infertility treatments drew passionate opposition from some lawmakers on the Insurance and Financial Services Committee, as well as from the Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom and Maine Women’s Lobby.

“We don’t believe it’s the role of the government to make decisions around the morality of people’s behavior,” said Kate Brogan, speaking on behalf of Family Planning of Maine and the Alliance for Reproductive Freedom.

Mason, who presented LD 943, An Act to Provide Access to Infertility Treatment, said during testimony Tuesday that he’d support eliminating the two controversial provisions from his bill to require insurance companies to shoulder some of the cost for infertility treatments if their removal spurs the bill to enactment.

“This is the original draft of the bill,” Mason said to the committee. “I’m totally willing to do something that fits Maine better, and that is why we have the committee process.”

Regardless, passage of the bill could be difficult because it represents a new financial mandate for private insurance companies. It could also lead to additional costs to the state’s general fund because under the federal Affordable Care Act, according to Katherine Pelletreau of the Maine Association of Health Plans, new coverage mandates must be subsidized by the state.

Under Mason’s bill, insurance companies would be allowed to require co-payments of up to 50 percent for the treatments, which can run easily into the thousands of dollars.

“Our members oppose LD 943 on the basis that it is a mandate that would increase costs for all ratepayers,” said Pelletreau.

Mason said that approximately 10 to 15 percent of U.S. couples are infertile.

“Oftentimes, a couple builds their future around a plan of having children and can be devastated when they are unable to conceive a child through natural methods,” said Mason. “Fortunately, there are many safe and effective treatments for overcoming infertility.”

The number of Mainers affected by infertility, however, and how much this concept would financially affect insurance companies, is not known because the last time the issue was studied was in 2003 by the Maine Bureau of Insurance. That prompted some to suggest that the bill be put on hold until a new study can be conducted.

“If the committee is interested in pursuing this legislation, we suggest that it be sent to the Bureau of Insurance for a new mandated study,” said Kristine Ossenfort, spokeswoman for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine.

The bill will be the subject of a work session in the coming weeks.

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.