Adoption, fertility help proposed


WASHINGTON -- Federal workers who have fertility problem or who wish to adopt children would get financial help under bills introduced by Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo.

Ms. Schroeder sees the measures as a way of evening the score between federal workers who are able to bear children -- their obstetric care is covered by the Federal Employees' Health Benefits Plan -- and those who must seek other means to have a family.

"The average cost of adoption can quickly surpass $9,000," Ms. Schroeder said when she introduced the bills recently. "Surgical therapies for infertility can easily reach $10,000. The median cost of having a baby can cash in at over $7,800. Clearly, many federal employees will find these costs prohibitive."

The bills also would give federal workers benefits that military personnel and some private sector employees enjoy, she said.

"This legislation will bring the nearly 3 million federal employees in line with active-duty, military families who enjoy an analogous benefit, as well as many private sector employers who offer adoption reimbursements and other family-building incentives," Ms. Schroeder said.

One bill would require the federal government to reimburse an employee up to $2,000 for adoption expenses. Couples in which both parents are federal employees could receive up to $4,000, under the measure.

Each federal agency would be responsible for setting up a procedure for calculating and disbursing the money, said Wendy Wasserman, an aide to Ms. Schroeder.

Under the measure, covered expenses would include fees charged by an adoption agency; placement fees; legal fees; counseling fees; medical expenses, including care for the biological mother and the child, foster-care charges and

transportation expenses.

The second bill would require any federal health plan carrier that covers obstetric and other childbirth-related care to pay for "family-building procedures," such as fertility treatments or medical care needed to carry a pregnancy to term.

Similar measures have been introduced in Congress for several years but have never gotten very far.

The Bush administration opposed the "family-building" bill because it would have provided medical care for biological mothers who are not federal workers, Ms. Wasserman said.

The Clinton administration has not taken a position on the bills, said Michael Orenstein, a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management.

HATCH ACT MARKUP -- A House-Senate committee met yesterday to wrap up work on legislation to change the Hatch Act, but the group lost its quorum and had to break up after it approved one amendment.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, would restrict federal workers from most political activities -- such as wearing a campaign button -- in the workplace. But it would allow them to participate in more political activities in their free time.

The amendment introduced by Mr. Glenn, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, would prohibit members of Congress and political appointees from recommending civil service job applicants for promotions or hiring. The only exception would be if the appointee or lawmaker was the job-seeker's boss.

The amendment, which was requested by the Clinton administration, is designed to prevent purely "political" recommendations, said Jack Sparks, a committee spokesman.

L Postal employees already are subject to such a ban, he said.

Another provision of the amendment would make federal workers subject to wage garnishment.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad