In early April 2014, the Health Minister of Ontario announced that after 5 years of IVF funding proposals and recommendations, the Ontario government has finally agreed to pay for one round of an IVF cycle, per couple, including only one embryo transfer, beginning as early as 2015.
So how is it that under the Liberal government, Ontario is only prepared to cover the cost of one IVF cycle, excluding the costs of medications? How is it that this province is so behind in helping women and men achieve their goals of having a family?
Government funding for expenses related to IVF treatment has been trending for some time. The provinces of Quebec and Manitoba already partially pay for these costs. More specifically, the Quebec government will pay for all expenses for three to six rounds of IVF, while Manitoba will allow IVF patients a tax credit toward their expenses.
The rationale behind any government funding is that by helping cover these costs, the expectation is that the frequency of multiple births will decline in their province. If the government pays for the costs of egg retrievals and embryo transfers, the pressure is taken off couples to implant more than one embryo at a time, thereby eliminating or minimizing the amount of multiple births per year. Couples would not feel the need to get more bang for their buck, so to speak, each time they do an IVF cycle. This would ultimately cut down health care costs such as the length of stay in hospital for both mother and babies and/or long-term therapies for babies born prematurely with issues (cognitive lags, physical delays, etc.).
There are mixed feelings by many as to whether or not treatment for infertility should be paid for at all by the government.
At present, the Ontario government pays for IVF only for women who have fully blocked fallopian tubes. To many, myself included, the picking and choosing of what qualifies as a legitimate reason for covering the cost of IVF or fertility treatment, is a Pandora’s Box that should be kept closed.
So women with blocked fallopian tubes get covered. How about women with endometriosis? Nope. Or polycystic ovarian syndrome? Nope. Why does one barriersupersede all the others? The bottom line is this. There are many reasons, medical reasons, why women are not getting pregnant. Reasons that these women cannot control. So why is it that coverage is given to some women and not to others? Is this not a form of discrimination? Why does the government have a right to ‘choose’ which involuntary medical diagnoses warrant coverage?
Just to reiterate…infertility is not a CHOICE. But yet it has never been treated like a disease or a disorder either. If it were, the costs to treat it would be absorbed by the government, no questions asked, as are the costs to treat cancer or patients with heart disease. The men and women who experience infertility do so because somewhere along the line, they have begun to explore the reasons why pregnancy is not happening for them, likely after having tried unsuccessfully for some time to get pregnant.
Again, unlike elective plastic surgery or the choice to have a vasectomy or get one’s tubes tied, having to go the route of IVF is never, ever, one’s choice. It is a situation where thousands of men and women find themselves when they would do anything and try everything necessary to have a family.
The hope is that this new funding formula will at least partially bridge the gap. All women will be given equal opportunity to try an IVF cycle, regardless of their diagnosis.
But as we have the prospect of IVF funding teasing us, as the possibility of its implementation gets dangled in front of our nose, it can just as easily, and just as quickly, be taken away. It remains to be seen if the province of Ontario will even proceed. Given the uncertainty of this week’s election, will IVF funding ever really get off the ground?
Image: Sperm And Egg Cell image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.
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