A seemingly minor bill introduced by Sen. Joan Carter Conway dominated debate in the Senate Monday night.
The measure would have expanded insurance coverage of costly in vitro fertilization in one very specific instance: when the man can't produce sperm because of a condition called non obstructive azoospermia AND the woman has ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome.
Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, was skeptical. A doctor by training, Harris told his colleagues the medical conditions outlined in the legislation are so narrowly crafted that the bill most likely "only covers one person."
Conway (D-Baltimore City) argued that the analyst who wrote the fiscal note attached to her bill (SB 27) estimates one percent of Maryland couples could suffer from the combination of symptoms required to trigger coverage. But Conway said she introduced the measure after receiving a request from one couple who lives in her district.
"It is a constituent who had a problem," Conway said after the floor debate. "I wrote it for that one person who brought it to my attention." Conway won't name the couple – at least for now. She promised to get back to us after checking with them.
The bill failed final passage on a 23-23 vote with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller abstaining. But it could still re-emerge. Sen. George Della (D-Baltimore City) asked that the bill be reconsidered on Thursday.
It's unclear what will change between now and then. After the session Miller said that he abstained because he was unfamiliar with the legislation, but he also seemed wary based on the floor debate. "My personal belief is that if somebody is going to receive sperm from somebody else, then they can pay for it," Miller said.
We'd like to add here that Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) expressed an overall distaste for mandating insurance coverage for procedures that are not medically necessary. He pointed to a 2002 column by the Sun's Jay Hancock that outlines how such mandates can drive up health care costs.
We've added the Hancock column after the jump.
** UPDATE: Several have noted in the comments that Sen. Conway opposes efforts to allow direct wine shipping in Maryland, an issue recently covered by Julie Bykowicz.