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Class Action Lawsuit Against Aetna Filed by Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel and NWLC Alleges LGBTQ Discrimination

The suit alleges that Aetna’s fertility treatment reimbursement policy discriminates against LGBTQ individuals

ECBAWM and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) have filed a class action lawsuit against Aetna alleging discriminatory practices against LGBTQ policy-holders seeking fertility treatments. Emma Goidel, the plaintiff in the suit, and her spouse seek to end this discriminatory policy and to recoup a portion of the out-of-pocket costs they have incurred while undergoing IVF and IUI fertility treatments.

The suit alleges that Aetna’s policy for coverage of IVF and IUI fertility treatments unfairly discriminates against LGBTQ couples by requiring them to pay out of pocket for 12 cycles of IUI before Aetna will provide them with coverage. However, Aetna’s policy provides immediate coverage, without any out-of-pocket cost, to heterosexual couples who have not gotten pregnant after having unprotected sex for 12 months.

“Aetna’s policy is effectively a tax on LGBTQ policy-holders,” said Noel León, an ECBAWM attorney representing Ms. Goidel. “It prevents LGBTQ individuals who are unable to shoulder the considerable cost of fertility treatments — disproportionately those of color — from becoming pregnant and thus denies their equal rights to start families.”

Ms. Goidel and her spouse are enrolled in Aetna’s Student Health Plan for Columbia University, which provides broad coverage for IUI and IVF for heterosexual couples. As a result of Aetna’s policy, however, they have been forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars for fertility treatment. They estimate that they paid nearly $45,000 for one successful pregnancy. The plaintiff is suing on behalf of herself and other LGBTQ individuals to end this discriminatory policy enforced by Aetna.

“It is everyone’s right to create a family, and to try to biologically bear their own children if they so choose,” said Ms. Goidel. “Health insurance must protect that right by covering medical costs equally for those who need fertility treatment to reproduce—not discriminating against queer people.”

“Your insurance company should never be the reason you are denied the chance to start a family,” said Michelle Banker, Director of Reproductive Rights and Health Litigation at NWLC, who is representing the plaintiff. “Emma was forced to pay significantly more and prevented from equal access to care, simply because she is queer. Aetna must change its illegal policy immediately — for patients like Emma, and especially for those who cannot afford this care. Discrimination should have no place in health care and we will make sure insurance companies like Aetna are held accountable.”

Individuals whose insurance policies unfairly discriminate against LGBTQ individuals or couples seeking fertility treatments can provide the attorneys with more information in three ways: by phone at (202) 956-3077, by email to LGBTQFertilityLawsuit@nwlc.org, or by filling out this Google form: https://bit.ly/LGBTQFertilityLawsuit.

Plaintiffs are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Noel León and Zoe Salzman and NWLC attorneys Michelle Banker, Sunu Chandy, Lauren Gorodetsky, and Alison Tanner.

Press
“Aetna Accused of Denying Coverage of Fertility Treatments for LGBTQ+ Policyholders,”  NewYork Law Journal
“Aetna sued over fertility treatment coverage for LGBTQ+ people,” Reuters
“Aetna hit with lawsuit alleging discrimination against LGBTQ patients,” Modern Healthcare

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Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP Announces New Team Members

The firm is pleased to announce new members of our team: Ananda Burra, Noel León, Sonya Levitova, Julian S. Oppenheimer, Vivake Prasad, and Max Selver.

Ananda Burra graduated magna cum laude, Order of the Coif from the University of Michigan Law School in 2014, where he served as an editor on the Michigan Law Review and was awarded the William Bishop Prize for excellence in International Law. He clerked on the International Court of Justice, was a visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge and the University of Virginia, and received a PhD from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the firm, Dr. Burra was an associate at Jones Day in the global disputes practice and held summer positions at Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Human Rights First in Washington D.C., and at the Center for Policy Alternative in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He received his BA cum laude from Williams College.

Noel León graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2014, where she was a Toll Public Interest Fellow and Executive Articles Editor for the Penn Journal of Law and Social Change. She joins the firm after a clerkship with the Honorable Victor A. Bolden of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. Previously, Ms. León was Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. She was also a Case Manager for the DC Abortion Fund. Ms. León received a BA in Psychology from Yale University in 2009.

Sonya Levitova earned her JD from the City University of New York School of Law in 2020, where she was a Graduate Fellow and served as Managing Articles Editor for the CUNY Law Review. During law school, she participated in the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic and the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility Project, and interned with ArchCity Defenders. She also worked at the firm as a summer associate. Ms. Levitova received her BA from Yale University. She is a law clerk and the firm’s 2020 Justice Catalyst Fellow working to hold federal officials accountable for their violations of incarcerated people’s constitutional rights.

Julian S. Oppenheimer graduated in 2020 from the City University of New York School of Law, where he was a member of the Moot Court Team and a teaching assistant for the Trial Practice Seminar. He previously served as a judicial intern for the Hon. Saliann Scarpulla of the New York State Supreme Court, Commercial Division and interned with the New York Civil Liberties Union. Mr. Oppenheimer received his BA from the City College of New York, where he studied Political Science and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He is currently working as a law clerk and will become an associate at the firm upon his admission to the bar.

Vivake Prasad graduated in 2015 from New York University School of Law, where he was the Senior Articles Editor for the N.Y.U. Journal of Legislation & Public Policy. During law school, he served as a student advocate in the NYU Racial Justice and NYU Global Justice Clinics, worked at the ACLU Voting Rights Project, and was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Prasad was a litigation associate at White & Case LLP. Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. Prasad advised Indian Members of Parliament on legislation and policy matters with PRS Legislative Research, at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. He received his BS in Policy & Management and Political Science, with University Honors, from Carnegie Mellon University.

Max Selver graduated magna cum laude, Order of the Coif from the New York University School of Law in 2016, where he was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Fellow. Before joining the firm, Mr. Selver was Litigation Fellow at Youth Represent and a Law Clerk to the Honorable Analisa Torres and James C. Francis IV in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He received his BA cum laude from Harvard College in 2011.

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