Giving Compass' Take:

• Research shows that when states require insurance companies to provide coverage of infertility treatments, there is a decrease in maternal mortality rates. 

• There are many reasons why there is a decreased risk when insurance in required. How can this inform healthcare companies about prioritizing the well-being of women without insurance?

• Read more about women's health in the U.S. and abroad. 

Nearly 11% of women ages 15-44 and 21% of currently married, childless women report having difficulty getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term, but fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization can be expensive and often require multiple attempts to be successful. Infertility treatments are often not covered by insurance, unless a state mandate requires that insurers provide insurance plans that cover the procedures.

Between 1977 and 2001, 15 states mandated insurance coverage for infertility treatments in some form, according to Joelle Abramowitz, lead author of the study that examined maternal mortality rates in women in states that mandated coverage of infertility treatments compared to states that didn’t.

“Previous findings suggest that the mandates were effective at increasing access to infertility treatment, but less work has explored how mandates affected maternal health outcomes,” says Abramowitz, an assistant research scientist at the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

Abramowitz found for white women, there were 3.4 fewer deaths per 100,000 births, a 20% decrease from the mean of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 in states that mandated coverage of infertility treatments. Her results appear on the journal Fertility and Sterility commentary website, the Fertility and Sterility Dialog.

“I would have expected, prior to this research, that there would be an increase in maternal mortality. But there are reasons why we would expect to see a decreased risk as well,” Abramowitz says.

Some of these reasons could be that because infertility treatments such as IVF are so expensive, women without insurance may try riskier procedures to ensure the IVF is successful. Additionally, women included in the analysis were likely more affluent and to have access to private health insurance in order to benefit from the mandates.

Read the full article about insurance coverage for infertility treatments by Morgan Sherburne at Futurity.