Imagine this: You go to your doctor and she finds something amiss. Follow-up tests confirm it: cancer. The treatment must begin as soon as possible.
If you are of reproductive age, here comes the second blow: The cancer or its treatment could seriously harm or destroy your fertility.
The doctor will give you time to find a fertility clinic that offers fertility preservation, like egg, embryo or testicular freezing that may allow you to conceive after the cancer is eradicated. The clinic has an opening next week.
But here comes the third blow: Fertility preservation could cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Please bring a check or cash.
For many cancer patients, the scenario is a reality. Reproductive technology is providing men and women with more options, but the cost can be prohibitive.
A new bill, The Family Act of 2011, was introduced in the Senate earlier this month to help alleviate some of the financial stress. It would create a tax credit for couples using fertility preservation and undergoing in vitro fertilization.
In both cases, cost is usually the overriding obstacle. Insurance coverage is spotty. The economic downturn has dried up loan sources. Barbara Collura, executive director of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, said anecdotal evidence suggests families in parts of the country hit hardest by the economic crisis are opting out of treatment.
The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), is not getting much attention amid louder debates about the federal budget and who’s in Iowa this week. The likelihood of a tax break in the current political climate, too, is not promising. But bills have a way of introducing ideas that can take root in other forms.
One thing this particular proposal has going for it is that it asks for so little. The credit would be extended to only a tiny minority of the millions who struggle with infertility. Collura knows that any legislation has to start small, for both budgetary reasons and to overcome the misperception that infertility treatment is a medical luxury.
“People don’t understand that infertility is a disease, not a lifestyle choice. It’s a medical condition that deserves to be treated,” Collura said.
“If I had a bladder problem or a I had a digestive problem, my medical insurance would cover it. Why wouldn’t the reproductive system have the same right to be treated and fixed so that it can perform what is supposed to do?”
Advocates have created a Facebook page to build support for the bill and are asking proponents to contact their legislators.
What do you think? Do you support a tax credit for these fertility treatments, for any fertility treatments?