SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- When Alice Crisci was diagnosed at age 31 with an aggressive form of breast cancer, she paid to have her eggs harvested as part of a costly procedure before undergoing cancer treatment.
The Los Angeles woman paid thousands of dollars out of pocket — putting the expense on a credit card — because fertility treatments were not covered by her insurance.
A bill working through the state Legislature would provide a financial reprieve to future patients who find themselves in a similar situation.
The legislation would make California the first state to require insurers to cover fertility treatments for patients battling cancer and other serious diseases, which often require treatments that can jeopardize their ability to have children.
The legislation by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, would require insurance providers to cover the fertility services for men and women. Treatments covered under AB912 would include extracting eggs and freezing sperm.
Approximately 140,000 people in the U.S. under the age of 45 are diagnosed with cancer each year, Quirk-Silva said.
"Even though cancer is scary, the idea of not getting to be a biological mother is even scarier," Crisci said during a Tuesday news conference to promote the bill.
Now 36 and in remission, she is nearly 18 weeks pregnant after spending $20,000 on fertility treatments.
The Assembly Health Committee approved the bill Tuesday on a party-line vote of 12-6, sending it to another committee.
The California Association of Health Plans is among those opposing the bill. In a letter to the Assembly Health Committee, the association wrote that the requirement would lead to higher insurance premiums and additional state costs.
Some insurance plans include coverage for fertility treatments, which must be offered as an option in California. In 13 states, insurers must provide coverage for treating infertility, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.
But Crisci and other supporters of AB912 say patients diagnosed with cancer or other serious diseases might be deemed ineligible for the coverage by their insurers because they did not have a diagnosis of infertility before receiving radiation or other treatments, which is when eggs or sperm would need to be collected.
Without insurance coverage, the cost of fertility treatments can be prohibitive to those already facing expensive care for their underlying disease. Harvesting and freezing eggs can cost as much as $15,000, according to a committee analysis of the bill.
Crisci, who runs an advocacy group on cancer and fertility, said she is thankful that she was able to use a credit card to pay for her treatment. Providing coverage for fertility care would bring it on par with other side effects that are covered, such as wigs and breast reconstruction, she said.
"About 30 side effects that I had from cancer were covered, except the one that mattered most to me," Crisci said. "That was my reproductive health."