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Nonprofits Volunteer to Cover Costs of Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients
The role of nonprofits in fertility preservation for patients with cancer.
March 31, 2021
Cancer treatments like radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy can be damaging to fertility. Young women undergoing cancer treatments are often prompted to preserve their fertility through treatments like egg freezing and injecting hormones. These fertility preservation treatments, however, are extremely expensive, often exceeding $15,000 in costs. According to fertility advocates, only 10 states in the country demand that insurance companies cover the costs of fertility preservation, meaning that many cancer patients find themselves either having to face infertility or somehow pull together huge out-of-pocket payments.
Roshni Kamta’s Story
Roshni Kamta was shockingly diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 22 years old. When she received her diagnosis, she was forced to quickly consider and make decisions regarding her options with fertility preservation. She decided to do an egg retrieval procedure before starting her cancer treatments. Unfortunately, Kamta’s insurance company refused to cover her egg retrieval procedure and the hormone injections she would also need to begin injecting into her body regularly. Stuck with no aid and no way to pay for everything suddenly thrown at her with her diagnosis, she turned to a nonprofit. The nonprofit she applied for and was approved for a grant by was The Chick Mission.
The Chick Mission is a New York based nonprofit that pays off the complete costs of fertility preservation treatments for women with cancer. They hope to expand their program to six states to help more women under 40 diagnosed with cancer. They hope to be able to approve 100 grants in these six states, and they will likely spend around $650,000 covering these 100 women. These numbers prove that the need for nonprofits like this far exceed the availability of aid. In other words, Kamta was incredibly lucky to be approved for her grant, and luck should not have to be a component in determining who gets a chance to preserve their fertility.
The Chick Mission was started by Amanda Rice, a three time cancer survivor who, after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, was told by her insurance that she wouldn’t qualify for fertility preservation coverage until trying for six months to become pregnant. Rice had breast cancer. She didn’t have six months to push off cancer treatments to try to have a baby, and she certainly didn’t have the additional nine months that would come with a potential pregnancy. Rice managed to cover the cost of freezing her eggs, but her experience left her feeling like she needed to prevent other women from going through what she had. She started The Chick Mission with the hopes that she would be able to advocate and approve grants for women in situations like hers.
The Chick Mission receives most of its donations through grassroots organizing. This is great, but there is not a whole lot of money coming in from grassroots donors. They are in need of an institutional donor if they hope to correct even a fraction of the damage done by the current healthcare system. The Chick Mission views themselves as the bandaid over the stab wound. There is only so much they can do with the money they are able to bring in, and they themselves could never possibly cover the costs for all women in need.
Their priority is to advocate for state laws that will demand that insurance companies cover the costs of cancer patients’ fertility preservation treatments. They hope to do that, and as Tracy Weiss, the nonprofit’s executive director says, “The ultimate goal of The Chick Mission is to be out of business.”
History of Nonprofits and Fertility Preservation
It is not totally clear how many nonprofits like The Chick Mission exist, but it is very obvious that there are not enough to cover the need. There are several other nonprofits, like Team Maggie For A Cure, in Georgia, and Fertility Within Reach, in Massachusetts, that offer financial aid, but they are not able to cover the full cost of treatment.
The first nonprofit to offer financial assistance to cancer patients seeking fertility preservation treatments was Fertile Hope, in 2004. Fertile Hope was absorbed by The Livestrong Foundation, a general cancer charity, that runs the fertility preservation program now called “Livestrong Fertility.” Livestrong Fertility is the leading nonprofit that provides free or discounted aid for fertility preservation, and their President, Greg Lee, says that the nonprofit has saved around 14,000 couples around $76 million dollars.
It is important to acknowledge that while those numbers and statistics are incredible, and the nonprofit has helped many people, organizations like these are primarily accessible to the fortunate. Nonprofits are not the ideal solution to the problem of cancer patients needing access to fertility preservation, because they are not widely accessible. We can’t rely on programs that require prospective beneficiaries to know how to apply for a grant or crowd fund to receive basic healthcare. These nonprofits certainly help, but they are not the answer.
The United States needs to seriously reconsider how we administer and grant healthcare in our country. People diagnosed with cancer do not need to be spending their time tracking down, applying for, and waiting for answers from nonprofits that do their best but simply can’t help everyone. These people have enough on their plates just dealing with the devastating reality of a cancer diagnosis. Our healthcare system is not serving the majority of our citizens, and this is just one example of many that can be used to prove that. People should be able to preserve their fertility and preserve their health and lives through life saving cancer treatment, and they shouldn’t have to go hungry in the process.
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