It’s National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), and Progyny is hosting a six-part series of back-to-back episodes featuring several experts who are fighting for fertility coverage. Our goal is to educate others on how they can advocate for themselves and ask for the support that’s needed from their employer or state to build the family of their dreams.
This marks our 100th episode, and we wanted to make this one extra special by hosting an extraordinary guest. Today you’ll hear from Risa Levine, a fertility advocacy superstar who’s working with RESOLVE (Barb Collura, CEO of RESOLVE, was our first guest – listen here). Risa is a practicing attorney in New York City and is mainly responsible for New York’s state mandate for fertility coverage. Risa’s efforts stemmed from her own experience with infertility, which resulted in her spending roughly $270,000 out of pocket for treatment. With her background in advocacy and ties to Capitol Hill, Risa decided to organize the facts about fertility coverage (or lack thereof) to advocate for others in the same situation. She emphasizes how coverage allows for healthier decision-making, which makes it no longer about the cost, but what will be most effective.
Guest: Risa Levine, RESOLVE
Host: Dan Bulger
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Here are some highlights from this episode:
9:27 – 10:57
Dan Bulger: So, from her teens through college, and well throughout the rest of her life to this point, Risa has been working on Capitol Hill to get things done. And she started where all good things should start: with research.
Risa Levine: I did research and I discovered that there had been a bill called the family building act that had been introduced in the House of Representatives. And it had had no sponsors and it died after one term. And I read the bill and it was a national mandate covering fertility treatment. And I said, that’s a start. I mean, that’s what we should be going for: a mandate to cover fertility treatments.
Dan Bulger: A national mandate to cover fertility treatment. When I was speaking with Risa, I actually wrote that down in my notes in all caps. It would be, as they say, a game changer. If there was a national mandate, there wouldn’t have to be all these different groups around the country fighting for coverage in their state. So yeah, it was a really great place to start.
Risa Levine: I downloaded certain statistics from the CDC about success rates and participation rates, etc. And I downloaded information about the cost of IVF cycles, and, and the success rates and you know, I put together an information package. And I asked people on the support boards to send me their stories that I thought were particularly sympathetic. And I basically went to political events or all kinds of things. And I just handed out my folders to anybody who would listen.
20:40 – 22:30
Risa Levine: I got a random phone call one day from a woman who identified herself as Barbara Collura from RESOLVE who told me that she had heard about me on Capitol Hill fighting for the issues that RESOLVE was working on and asked if I want to work with them. And suddenly I had a platform. I suddenly had a team of people who I can work with instead of doing the thing on my own.
Dan Bulger: Barbara Collura is the CEO of RESOLVE – the National infertility Association. While Risa is our guest for the 100th episode of this podcast, Barbara was our guest for the first. She’s as much of a shaker and a mover and a hero to the infertility community as Risa is. And these two together are quite the powerhouse. Together, they worked on the Family Building Act. But eventually it became clear that the national mandate wasn’t going to work out at that time. They then worked on a bill that would give a tax credit to those spending money on fertility treatments. And that one actually got into language in the Tax Reform Act. But unfortunately, the Tax Reform Act itself fell through. But while they were working on these bills, they were building something lasting. They started to build a mechanism for advocacy around infertility.
Dan has been in the healthcare industry for the last six years as a multimedia content producer. Better known as ‘Video Dan’ he as interviewed numerous doctors, patients and other experts in the world of fertility. He’s also the producer for this podcast, This is Infertility. On a personal note Dan’s parents started fostering kids when he was four years old, and he considers himself a proud older brother to over 100 foster children.
Risa A. Levine is an attorney practicing in New York in the area of commercial and residential transactional real estate. While managing her own practice, Ms. Levine has remained active in various communal, philanthropic and political organizations.
Ms. Levine is a leader in the effort to secure insurance coverage for infertility treatment and is working closely with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association on the State and Federal level. She was instrumental in securing legislation in New York to cover in vitro fertilization treatment for large group insurance plans and is spearheading efforts to legalize compensated gestational surrogacy. She served on the Board of Directors of RESOLVE from 2010 through 2019, and as Chair of RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013 and chaired RESOLVE’s Congressional Briefing in 2010. She was the recipient of RESOLVE’s Hope Award for Advocacy in 2010 and was the recipient of the Barbara Eck Founder’s Award in 2019. Also in 2019, the RESOLVE Advocacy Legacy Award in honor of Risa A Levine was established.
Ms Levine was a member of Hillary Clinton’s Finance Committee for her historic presidential bid. She campaigned on Hillary’s behalf in several states and was involved with fundraising and surrogate speaking on behalf of the candidate. Risa first began volunteering for Hillary Clinton upon the inception of the 2000 Hillary Clinton for Senate Campaign. Ms. Levine also served on the Finance Committees of numerous New York State and Federal candidates.
Risa is currently serving as the Vice President of the Brandeis University Alumni Association. She was an active leader of State of Israel Bonds for over 20 years a past chair of New York New Leadership, where she directed a campaign which succeeded in increasing sales of Israel Bonds by 120% in one year. Named one of the Top 40 Jewish Leaders under 40 by The Jewish Week in 1995, she has met with Prime Ministers Yitzchak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon and offered insight into the relationship American Jewry has with the State of Israel and its political implications. She is a committed supporter of other Jewish and Zionist causes and serves on the Boards of the National Jewish Democratic Council, New York and The Judaism and Democracy Action Alliance of North America.
Ms. Levine has appeared in numerous television and print features, including Fox and Friends, CNN, ABC and CBS, and Self Magazine, the New York Times, the Albany Times Union and other forums.
A cum laude graduate of Brandeis University, where she double majored in English and Sociology, Risa enjoys active participation in its Alumni Association and was Class Chair for her 25th Reunion, breaking both fundraising and attendance records.
Ms. Levine was born in Brooklyn, NY, is a graduate of the Yeshiva of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School and received her law degree from Fordham University School of Law.
Music From This Episode:
Artist: Steve Combs
Track: To Move an Inch
Artist: Philipp Weigl
Track: Western Shores
Artist: Lee Rosevere
Track: I Thought of Pills