In recent years, in vitro fertilization, also known as IVF, has become more and more common. As it becomes more common and more women and families are turning to the procedure in order to aid in starting a family, questions about the procedure are becoming more common as well. For example, is IVF covered by insurance? It varies, but a lot of the time, IVF costs aren't taken care of by health coverage. According to advancedfertility.com, about 15 states have some type of mandate for infertility insurance coverage, so couples in those states are more likely to receive help from their health insurance plan in paying for treatments. But in states without such a mandate, most insurance plans don't help to pay for fertility and IVF services. And there are so many reasons why IVF and egg-freezing should be covered by insurance.
Women don't choose to be infertile, but being infertile and wanting to start a family often means you need access to procedures that are incredibly cost-prohibitive for many women and couples. If IVF and egg-freezing were covered by insurance, that would be one less obstacle for women to face when trying to conceive. The fewer hurdles to take on, the less stressful the process overall.
According to a piece by The Washington Post, "One cycle of IVF costs roughly $15,000, and egg freezing costs about $10,000-$12,000, including annual storage fees." That's incredibly expensive, and not an option for the majority of women. In a story featured on WSOC-TV in October, North Carolina is one state that does not require insurance companies to cover infertility treatments. So couples there are pushing lawmakers to mandate infertility coverage. Treatment for one mom featured in the story, between costs of her surrogate and in vitro fertilization treatment, came to $26,000. That's not the sort of money many women and couples have just lying around.
Egg-freezing is also becoming increasingly popular, with companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, and Microsoft making headlines for covering fertility benefits for their employees. Egg-freezing costs about $10,000, and storage is $500 to $1,000 a year, as reported by BuzzFeed, so either using IVF or egg-freezing for fertility needs is not an inexpensive route to take.
Additionally, many women turn to egg-freezing for reasons other than infertility. Some women with high risks of ovarian or reproductive cancers freeze their eggs so that they can have their ovaries removed and will still be able to reproduce later in their lives with the help of fertility drugs.
With IVF, conception occurs outside the body, and the embryo(s) that results is then implanted in the uterus. Egg freezing is different. In that process, women take hormones to produce multiple eggs, and those eggs are then removed from their ovaries and sent to a lab where they’re frozen. The eggs are stored there until such time as the woman wants to use them to have a baby, usually later in life.
But both processes are not cheap, and insurance companies should cover them for women who are looking for options when it comes to fertility and conception. In some cases, infertility is a result of a medical or medicinal issue. In one case out of California, a woman's insurance company said they'll refuse to pay for fertility treatment — following a breast cancer diagnosis and a double mastectomy, necessary care which led to doctors advising that she shouldn’t get pregnant for the next five years while she's on a cancer-related medication — once she's safely able to try to conceive. She was warned that having a healthy baby could be harder in her late 30s, once the treatment is complete, but her insurance currently won't cover the costs of fertility treatment when she gets to that point.
And a couple up in British Columbia is taking on the issue of insurance coverage for IVF as well. Juvarya and Shaun Veltkamp were successful in conceiving their baby, Blaise, with the help of in vitro fertilization at a private clinic, but they are now advocating for the treatment to be covered in their province because they believe prohibitive costs involved are a hindrance for many couples.
With so many examples of women and couples choosing to go with IVF or egg-freezing to help with fertility and conception, it's about time insurance companies get with the program and cover more of the costs. Again, women don't choose to be infertile, or choose something like getting cancer, which leads to a delay in trying to conceive. Why should they have to pay for basic medical care to aid them in getting pregnant, if they have insurance for other basic health needs, when infertility is through no fault of their own?
Information on state-by-state infertility insurance coverage is available, and shows just how uneven coverage is just depending on where you live. For example, in Arkansas, except for HMOs, "all health insurers providing maternity benefits must provide IVF benefits." But in California, "insurance companies are not required to provide infertility insurance coverage and employers are able to choose if they will include it in their employee benefits package."
It's time insurance coverage for infertility treatments became available, accessible, and equal for all women in this country who seek it — regardless of income and background.