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Princeton SHP should comply with the NJ Family Building Act and cover advanced reproductive treatments

McCosh Health Center was once a stronghold against viruses and was one of the last few places on campus that required masks.
Angel Kuo / The Daily Princetonian

The following is a guest contribution and reflects the authors views alone. For information on how to submit an article to the Opinion Section, click here. 

For some years, my wife and I have been trying to conceive without success. After a fertility specialist check, the specialist recommended we embark on the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process to make our wish to have a family feasible. As it was the only viable option given by the medical experts, we started the IVF process last spring. Unfortunately, given that IVF and other types of “Advanced Reproductive Technology” are excluded by the Princeton Student Health Plan (SHP) (on page 54 “exclusions”), we were forced to choose between facing the burden of extensive medical bills and not being able to have a family. Since we saw the pursuit of a family as an essential part of our personal lives, we were determined to embark on this process — but the path has not been easy.


Our dilemma is not shared by all other New Jersey residents; rather, it is a result of insufficient University policies and coverage. Since 2001, the NJ Family Building Act has guaranteed coverage of infertility diagnosis and advanced reproductive treatments (such as IVF) in the State of New Jersey. Unfortunately, as Princeton SHP is a self-funded plan, it does not have to comply with state mandates. Princeton University has left any Advanced Reproductive treatment outside the SHP coverage. Thus, community members under the SHP cannot access the kind of reproductive care that even the state of New Jersey has deemed essential. Especially given its extreme wealth as an institution, Princeton has a responsibility to fund access to this kind of care for its students. 

My wife and I have done everything in our hands to keep this procedure cost at a minimum, including researching different prices, providers, and treatments. However, the amount we have paid to undergo the advanced reproductive treatments heavily constrained our finances and caused extreme financial hardship, given that the total sum of the bills is alarmingly close to a Princeton Graduate Student’s yearly stipend. This financial burden is especially difficult to manage as two immigrants — as an international graduate student, access to other sources of income is very limited in the United States. 

We reached out to all the channels available at the University (i.e., the Medical Expense Assistance Program). After we prepared applications, gathered receipts, and more importantly, advanced money, Princeton ended up covering around 6% of the total bills. This is far less than what Princeton would have covered if advanced reproductive treatments were included in the SHP (which covers other infertility treatments at rates of 90% for in-network care and 70% for out-of-network care). 

With infertility rates growing in the last decade, and the deferral of motherhood (especially among grad students and scholars due to the extensive commitment that academic life requires) the need for advanced reproductive treatments is becoming more common in the United States and remains the only option to conceive in many cases. There is no reason why Princeton University, an institution with an endowment of $35.8 billion, cannot cover these costs, especially when failing to do so goes against the state mandate and puts the burden of astronomical medical bills on the students. In a time when reproductive rights and health are under constant threat, it is critical that Princeton University supports its community and complies with the NJ Family Building Act.

Editor’s Note: The ‘Prince’ granted the author anonymity to preserve their privacy.