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Uncle Sam, Help Out With IVF

a blog by Amy Klein, March 5, 2014

Canada’s different provinces are debating whether to fund IVF – quelle différence from the American Healthcare system. As people in the U.S. scramble to find an insurance plan that covers even the basic necessities – the middle class being particularly hit by high prices – other counties are improving their already comprehensive coverage to consider including IVF.

In Alberta, for example, a campaign is underway for the province to support IVF, saying that 1 in 6 families have fertility problems, and arguing that public funding would ultimately save taxpayers an estimated $97 million (Canadian dollars) over 18 years because it would reduce the amount of multiple births. A smart campaign, not only universalizing fertility issues (it’s not just older women or a fraction of society) but making it appeal to everyone’s self-interest: their pocketbooks.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not making a political statement about Obamacare and the Affordable Healthcare Act. (I think it’s a step in the right direction, albeit flawed in some details and implementation.) I’m just trying to point out the contrast between what’s going on in our very own North America.

Truthfully, I wish Uncle Sam would start covering fertility treatments – at least for younger women, where it’s actually a medical and not age-related problem. (Some 15 states offer some funding). But I don’t think it’s realistic right now – not when so many people are lacking basic medical services.

But the government should be more involved in oversight of the fertility field. Sure, there is the ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) a non-profit organization specializing in fertility and helping implement the government’s state and federal regulations in reproductive medicine.

But sometimes it can feel like the fertility field is the Wild, Wild West of medicine, like San Francisco during the gold rush. It’s not just about the money – although, let’s face it, with barely any coverage for fertility services, this private field is a cash cow. It just seems like there are so many different types of treatment, so many different types of protocols, so many different theories. With no one weighing in on definitive recommendations (although the tide is finally moving in the direction of single embryo transfers), the onus is often on the patient to sift through reams of data.

The recent discovery that fertility clinics aren’t accurately reporting their success rates is just one example of how more oversight is needed. If the jungle were tamed, bad clinics and unhealthy treatments could be weeded out and consensus could be built on best practices.

No, we may never be like Alberta, with public funding for IVF, but if we understood that it’s everyone’s problem – and affects everyone’s pocketbook—we might take more of an interest in it.

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