Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, speaks on behalf of her bill to extend insurance coverage to those with an infertility diagnosis at a Capitol press conference on Feb. 27.

Money runs out before the compassion ever does under the golden dome of the state Capitol in Denver. It’s probably that way in your household budget.

That’s evident looking at an entirely worthy piece of legislation passed by the state Senate on March 10, bound for the governor’s desk.

House Bill 1158, called the Colorado Building Families Act, would ensure coverage for those with an infertility diagnosis. The bill is sponsored by a constellation of Democratic stars: Reps. Kerry Tipper of Lakewood, Leslie Herod of Denver, Sen. Faith Winter of Westminster and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg of Boulder.

The law would “remove barriers and ensure all Coloradans can achieve their dreams of becoming parents,” Winter said.

Experts say one in eight couples have trouble conceiving naturally. Seventeen states require some level of fertility coverage, which raised rates, on average, a dollar a month, Winter said.

Judith Hoechst dreamed of having a family since she’d walked kids in strollers for family friends in the neighborhood. She worked for awhile as a neonatal nurse before going into family law.

After an infertility diagnosis, the dream was out of reach financially as she and her husband wrestled with student loans and a mortgage. One miscarriage after another broke their hearts and cracked their marriage. Sadness, hopelessness and feeling flawed hung over them like a veil for years.

Eventually, a home equity loan paid the $15,000 to implant three embryos which resulted in a “beautiful little girl,” she told me at the Capitol.

Two years later, they borrowed against their home again, and they had a little boy.

“Our children are our legacy, beyond any of our other achievements,” Hoechst said.

Insurance would pick up most of that cost going forward. Figuring up costs isn’t the whole equation without accounting for savings, however.

Couples relying on cheaper, older fertility methods have higher risks for premature and multiple births. Having twins is five times more expensive than a single baby, and triplets is 20 times higher, according to a footnoted fact sheet handed out to lawmakers from bill supporters.

Nationally, covering fertility treatment could result in a savings of more than $6 billion a year, they project.

I can’t verify that’s true. Unlike the president, I don’t have innate abilities in medicine or a “super genius uncle,” though my Uncle Grady once hot-wired a fuse box with pennies.

On the same day as advocates for infertility coverage rallied, Gov. Jared Polis held a news conference to talk about how he’s been saving people money on their health care.

He asked for questions from the crowd. Someone behind me asked a good one. I didn’t see who it was.

How can lawmakers continue to add things to the bill and still expect the premiums to get cheaper?

Don’t worry, it’ll all come out in the wash, the governor replied, in essence.

“It’s very important to get the big things done to reduce costs,” Polis said. “You can do a few small things with the savings, like expand coverage and access with some of the savings, as long as the bulk of them are passed on to consumers. If you don’t generate a savings, there’s no savings to go to things like that.”

Not even the insurance companies are putting up much of a fight for any of a handful of mandates for more coverage, at a time when their profits and operations are under tough scrutiny with millions of dollars each year directly on the line.

The state is getting in the insurance business with below-market rates, called the public option, which hospitals would be forced to take, price caps and all. The Legislature will hammer that out in the next two months, as well.

On another day, two bills came up back-to-back in the Colorado House, adding two more things for health insurance to cover: colorectal screenings (House Bill 1103) and mental health wellness exams (House Bill 1086).

“If we want to save money on health care,” Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Democrat from Commerce City, said of her bill for catching mental health breakdowns before they manifest, “this is a mechanism for saving money on health care.”

Rep. Colin Larson, a Republican from Littleton, co-sponsored the bill. “It’s a return on investment proposition,” he told the House. “There is overwhelming data about the cost-effectiveness and cost-reductions to the overall system for primary care for physical health.

“This is recognizing that principle and applying it to mental health.”

Democrats pointed out that industry representatives have not projected across-the-board premium increases based solely on covering mental health exams.

House Republican leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock offered an amendment to make mental health exams one of the options they offer, but not to bake it into every policy. He said he recognized mental health coverage as a noble cause, one of many.

“Each one of these is noble on their own, but as we add up all these different mandates to the insurance companies, the overall price of the insurance is going to increase,” he pleaded, before his amendment was voted down.

Republican Rep. Shane Sandridge of Colorado Springs put a fine point on the theory of subtraction by addition.

“If this would save them money, they would already be doing it,” he said.

Contact Joey Bunch at joey.bunch@coloradopolitics.com or follow him on Twitter @joeybunch.

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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