Gay couple sues over insurance plan – NBC Bay Area

Gay couple sues over insurance plan – NBC Bay Area

NEW YORK – A gay couple filed a first-of-its-kind class-action lawsuit against the City of New York on Thursday, alleging that the city’s health insurance plan is discriminatory because it does not cover in vitro fertilization, or IVF, for male couples.

The lawsuit is the latest development in what has become a years-long effort by the couple to get the city to change its IVF benefits, which the couple says offers accommodations for heterosexual and lesbian couples, and for single women.

Corey Briskin and Nicholas Maggipinto said they have been talking about having children since 2014, before their engagement.

They planned to use a two-part process: First, they would use IVF, where an egg is combined with a sperm in a laboratory, and second, they would work with an agency to hire a surrogate mother who would have the fertilized egg implanted and carry the baby to term.

They planned to have IVF covered by insurance and planned to pay for surrogacy out of pocket.

Briskin accepted a job as an assistant district attorney at the New York County District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan in 2017, and soon after learned that the city’s health plan does not cover IVF benefits for gay men. .

Briskin left that job in March 2022, but is still covered by the city’s plan through a federal law called COBRA, which allows employees to continue receiving health care coverage from their former employer for up to three years if they pay the premium. full premium.

The couple filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2022 and hoped it would encourage the city to change its policy. However, that did not happen.

Peter Romer-Friedman, who runs his own firm, Peter Romer-Friedman Law PLLC, based in Washington, D.C., said the city responded to the EEOC’s charge with a position statement arguing that it does not provide IVF benefits to women. surrogate mothers and, as a result, would not provide benefits to Briskin and Maggipinto.

Romer-Friedman called the city’s argument a red herring, because she said Briskin and Maggipinto have never sought any benefits for a surrogate mother.

“They’re looking to fertilize donated eggs with their sperm, and those are things that the plan provides to other people,” Romer-Friedman said. “So, in our opinion, the city offered no legitimate, legal or factual explanation for treating Corey and Nicholas differently than other couples receiving IVF benefits.”

Romer-Friedman represents the couple along with David Lopez, who was general counsel of the EEOC from 2010 to 2016.

A City Hall spokesperson said Mayor Eric Adams’ administration “proudly supports the rights of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers to access the health care they need.”

“The city has been a leader in offering IVF treatments to any city employee or dependent covered by the city health plan who has demonstrated proof of infertility, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation,” the spokesperson said. “The city will review the details of the complaint.”

Romer-Friedman said that to file a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin, a party must first file a complaint to the EEOC.

After a six-month EEOC investigation, the party may choose to go to court.

The couple’s lawsuit argues that the city’s exclusion of gay men from qualifying for IVF benefits violates Title VII, the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment, and the state’s human rights laws. New York and New York City.

The city categorically denies IVF benefits to gay men because it requires employees to meet its definition of infertility to qualify, the lawsuit argues. The city defines infertility as the inability to conceive a child through unprotected sexual intercourse between a man and a woman within a period of 12 consecutive months or through intrauterine insemination, or IUI.

Under this definition, single women and lesbian couples can qualify as infertile and receive IVF benefits if they undergo IUI and do not become pregnant, according to the complaint.

“But gay men, although equally unable to conceive a child without IVF, are always denied access to IVF under the city’s health care plan,” the complaint states.

“By defining ‘infertility’ in this exclusionary manner, single employees, employees with male partners, employees with female partners, and male employees with female partners are always potentially eligible for some IVF benefits under the company’s health care plan. city, but gay men, either individually or with male partners, are never eligible for any IVF benefits.”

Through its health care plan, the lawsuit argues, the city “denies gay men equal treatment and makes it much more difficult for gay men to have biological children than other employees and their partners.”

As of 2022, Briskin said, he and Maggipinto began their journey to becoming parents. They have received donated embryos that are waiting to be transferred to a surrogate mother and hope to have their first child next year. However, they pay for all services out of pocket.

So far, they’ve spent about $80,000 and just received another $9,000 medical bill this week for prescription medications needed for the IVF process, they said.

They expect to pay about $100,000 for IVF costs, and surrogacy may cost an additional $165,000, according to documents filed with the couple’s 2022 EEOC complaint.

Due to costs, Briskin left the public sector and took a job at a private law firm.

“I certainly had to make the difficult decision to leave the public sector, something I clearly felt very strongly about – I worked as a public servant for the first decade of my career,” Briskin said. “And that decision was largely driven by our need to make sure we can fund it ourselves.”

Briskin said they have received support primarily from those who have heard about their case, and that people have been “stunned at the idea that we have to have this fight in New York City in 2024.” But the couple has had some critics, they said, who have argued that Briskin and Maggipinto don’t need the benefits because they are both lawyers.

Maggipinto said they have been fortunate to be able to save money to have children, but their struggle is not about money.

“If it was just about money, we would have sought an agreement with the city and not worried about all the frustration that this brings, but if there is any point I would like to make, it is that the policy needs to change.” Maggipinto said. “I would love for the city to answer the question directly: What exactly is mugging? Why are they denying us equal treatment? “They haven’t found anything.”

Since the couple filed their lawsuit against the EEOC, Romer-Friedman said 10 New York City council members have introduced a bill to offer IVF benefits to city employees regardless of whether they can meet the definition. of “infertility,” and two federal courts have held that Health care plans that exclude same-sex couples, specifically lesbian couples, from IVF benefits may violate federal nondiscrimination laws, like Title VII.

Currently, only seven states, including New York, require IVF benefits to include same-sex couples, according to a report by the nonprofit news website Stateline, although these policies do not explicitly require coverage for gay men.

The article was originally written for NBC news. See the original here.

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