By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

Last week, two surrogates won their battle with their insurance companies when the Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously ruled that insurers cannot deny benefits to pregnant women based on their reasons or methods of becoming pregnant.

It’s an important step forward for surrogates in Wisconsin, but women in other states aren’t so lucky. Most surrogates are still denied benefits during their pregnancies.

Most insurance policies have an exclusionary clause regarding reproduction or maternity, which denies any benefits related to a surrogate pregnancy. Most policies also include a one-year waiting period from the time coverage begins before a woman can get pregnant and receive benefits.

It’s an issue. More than 90 percent of the surrogates we at Alternative Reproductive Resources work with are not covered by their own policies. And we’re seeing more and more exclusionary language in insurance policies, regardless of the state.

Ideally, we’d like for gestational surrogates to be able to use their own insurance policies during their pregnancies. More often, the policy excludes any treatments related to surrogacy. The intended parents become responsible for medical costs when a surrogate isn’t covered and usually have to purchase an individual policy for her. Several companies offer policies specifically for surrogates, including New Life Insurance, but the policies are extremely expensive and can cost anywhere between $35,900 and $47,900.

It seems insurers still have a long way to go when it comes to covering surrogates. Our attorney, Nidhi Desai, who specializes in fertility law, understands that insurers feel they can exclude surrogates because they receive financial compensation. From a legal standpoint, however, she thinks it’s unfair. “I think it is very important to focus on the principle of the matter, that pregnancy is a health condition, period,” she said.

The ruling in Wisconsin leaves us with some questions. What does this mean for other states? Will others follow suit, and when? There’s no way to know for sure but it’s certainly encouraging to see changes taking place. Federal healthcare reform has also been heading in the right direction with the Affordable Care Act that guarantees coverage to those who have been denied because of pre-existing conditions. The act hasn’t had an effect on surrogates yet, but nationwide changes could be on the way as well.

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