New laws affect child conception, protection, emancipation
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New laws related to the conception, protection and emancipation of children are among those taking effect on New Year’s Day in New Hampshire.
Starting Jan. 1, group insurance plans are required to cover the diagnosis and treatment of fertility-related conditions, including fertility preservation measures for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments that may affect their ability to have children. The new law also requires insurers to cover the storage of sperm, eggs and embryos for the length of the policies.
Opponents raised concerns about the mandate’s impact on health insurance premiums for small businesses. But supporters, noting that three other New England states have similar laws, said New Hampshire should be doing all it can to attract young families.
“We do need to be making this state a place that young people want to move,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, told the Valley News. “Some are leaving because they get to the time in their lives when they want to have children. New Hampshire was not hospitable.”
A second new law is aimed at protecting children suspected of being abused or neglected. In the past, the state’s Division of Children, Youth and Families could request medical information from primary care providers, but there was no avenue for the child protection agency to tell medical providers about investigations. Under the new law, the agency is required to develop a process for insuring a child’s primary care provider is notified about the nature of an investigation.
Dr. Eric Shessler, a pediatrician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, told senators that he and his colleagues have received letters from the state division asking if they had concerns about particular children, but they didn’t know what information to provide because they weren’t given any details of the investigation. For example, a doctor provided information about a child’s mother, when the actual investigation focused on the father, he said.
Abused children also were the focus of a third new law that establishes a procedure for the emancipation of minors. The bill was the result of a study committee and was drafted with help from New Hampshire Legal Assistance, which said 24 other states have some form of emancipation.
Supporters said the new law is aimed at a small number of teens who are responsible and mature, but want to leave bad home situations without becoming a ward of the state. For example, it would allow a 16-year-old who is sleeping on a friend’s couch and is working or going to school to get away from an abusive parent.
Michelle Wangerin, a legal assistance advocate, told lawmakers that the New Hampshire’s bill drew heavily from laws in Montana and Vermont, both of which include significant court oversight. The latter had only 10 children pursuing emancipation last year, she said.