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New Insurance Laws May Mandate Fertility Preservation For Cancer Patients

August 17, 2018
Katie Visco

Even in a society as committed to debating every imaginable field of discourse to the point of absurdity as ours is, it’s heartening to see we can all still agree that cancer sucks. Most of us have lost someone to it and all of us know survivors and patients of every kind of cancer imaginable. Fun runs, benefit concerts, and other fundraising efforts for research are commonplace in our modern world as we creep closer and closer to an elusive cure. In the continued absence of a quick and easy cure for cancer, however, many cabinet industries have sprung up to help cancer patients manage the pain and other symptoms of chemotherapy. Whether it’s providing wigs to people who lose their hair, or medicinal cannabis (where legal) to help people deal with the pain, cancer patient support is a vibrant corner of modern supplementary healthcare.

A substantial portion of that corner is devoted to helping people preserve their fertility after chemo. The treatment often ravages the body of the patient, doing severe damage to both benign and cancerous tissues. This includes the womb and uterus, which can often be left damaged if not completely sterile after a full round of chemo. Luckily we live in a time where freezing eggs and embryos for later implantation/fertilization is no longer the stuff of science fiction but an accredited medical procedure, as it was named as a standard infertility treatment by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in 2012. But this isn’t a full solution to the problem of post-chemo infertility. Men hoping to conceive after beating cancer can put fertile sperm on ice fairly cheaply, but women hoping to freeze eggs or embryos can face initial fees of over $10000 not to mention regular payments after the fact.

Why the Loophole?

Your insurance should cover this, right?

life insurance document

Insurance coverage for infertility is actually quite rare in the US. Only 15 out of 50 states require private insurers to cover or offer coverage for infertility diagnosis and treatment, and not even all of these cover IVF. It’s even rarer for fertility preservation therapies such as freezing eggs and embryos to be covered. The justification for this is mostly a semantic one. You’re not technically infertile if you get diagnosed with cancer and prescribed chemotherapy, you’re just about to become infertile. As the medical definition of infertility is still “the inability to get pregnant after a year of unprotected sex,” you wouldn’t even begin to qualify for any benefits you may be entitled to until a year after your treatment concludes.

What’s being done?

New laws promise to expand coverage, but they’re far from a cure-all.

white house

Thus far; legislators in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maryland have amended their laws to include cancer patients. Similar efforts are underway to expand coverage in New York, Delaware, and Illinois. A bill is also under consideration at the federal level sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to require insurers, private and government alike, to cover infertility treatments including cancer patients. This all sounds great but there’s no guarantee any of this legislation will even make it to a vote, and the measures they’re proposing don’t protect all women. State insurance regulations only apply to private health plans that are fully insured, as opposed to self-funded corporate health insurance, or people who buy their own health insurance. This also leaves those on government short-term health assistance measures like Medicaid out in the cold.

How can I help?

Get informed, then take action.

teamwork

For those with the monetary means, the most direct way you can help a woman struggling to maintain fertility during chemotherapy is to give to any number of Kickstarters and GoFundMe’s ywhich pop up every day, started by people hoping to crowdsource their medical expenses. Playing the good samaritan to these strangers, or volunteering time and money in support of more-locally-based cancer nonprofits, gives you the assurance the money will reach someone who really needs it instead of going towards a down payment on the president of a nonprofit’s new Range Rover. Beyond that, most of your work will be done in the voting booth, find out which candidates in your area support expanded women’s health measures and get the word out to all your friends.

What if it’s me?

A cancer diagnosis is not the end.

girl with hands covering face

Now the time has come to address the elephant in the room. There is a non-zero chance that you, the reader, have come to our little corner of the net after being diagnosed with cancer yourself, wondering if your dreams of a family have just vaporized before your eyes. If this is the case, we can’t say we understand your pain, but we do care about it. Feeling overwhelmed is only natural to this sort of life-changing diagnosis. Do you need a break? Put the phone down, close the laptop, go take a walk, get ice cream, feel the summer breeze on your skin, just live for a minute. This article and hundreds of other useful ones will still be here when you get back. Back yet? How was the ice-cream? Pick a flavor you like? Sprinkles? Good to hear.

If you are here in the immediate aftermath of a cancer diagnosis know that history is on your side, statistically there has been no better time to be diagnosed with and receive treatment for cancer than the one you are currently living in. You are stronger than this, you can beat it. Just have faith, whether in yourself, your doctors, or your higher power of choice, that you will.

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