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U.S. Senate Considers Bill to Expand Veterans' Coverage for IVF

Senate considers bill for fertility treatment for veterans

a blog by Claire, August 20, 2012

Infertility may not be the first trauma you think of that can be inflicted on soldiers during war, but it is an important one that appears to be gaining attention. The U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would expand insurance coverage for in vitro fertilization (IVF) in order to help wounded veterans start families.

The bill sets out to expand the Veteran's Administration's medical benefits package to cover IVF and pay for procedures that are now provided for some critically injured active-duty soldiers, but are not covered for soldiers who are no longer on active duty. The Defense Department had recently made IVF a covered benefit for active-duty service members who are either seriously ill or catastrophically injured. The policy allows for coverage of three completed IVF cycles.

The bill — The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012 — is sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, chairwoman of the Senate Veteran's Affairs Committee. Many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered pelvic fractures and genitourinary injuries that could affect their reproductive abilities. Between 2001 and November 2011, 1,205 service members sustained one or more injuries to their genitourinary systems in combat, and the average casualty age was 26 years old, according to the Joint Theater Trauma Registry.

According to reports, Sen. Murray hopes the committee will act on the bill after returning from the August recess. "Reproductive injuries are some of the most impactful and serious wounds of these wars,” Senator Murray says. “VA has an obligation to care for the combat wounded. For those with such catastrophic injuries, that includes access to the fertility care they need. Veterans and their spouses are specifically barred from accessing in vitro fertilization services at the VA and often times have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the private sector to get the advanced reproductive treatments they need to start a family. These veterans deserve far more.”

Currently, the VA covers some fertility services, such as counseling, diagnostic tests and intrauterine insemination. But it does not cover IVF, which has higher success rates and can cost thousands of dollars, with the average cost being $12,400. In addition, IVF often takes multiple tries to produce a viable pregnancy and live birth.

"This is clearly the right thing to do for our veterans," says Laurence Jacobs, M.D., a fertility doctor with Fertility Centers of Illinois. "Many of the injuries require IVF so that sperm can be inserted into the eggs with ICSI. It is not right to make the people who have served our country pay out-of-pocket for it, since most couples can’t or won’t be able to afford these high tech procedures."


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