“A new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) draft Strategic Plan for 2018 through 2022 contains verbiage defining human life as “beginning at conception”. The intent is to restrict access to contraceptives and abortion. However, this language will also restrict the ability to create life via In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). IVF is a procedure which hopes to see fertilization of sperm and oocytes develop into an embryo, which would be transferred into a uterus, resulting in a live birth.
How can this language restrict IVF? If an embryo is considered a human life, medical professionals could become liable for all outcomes pertaining to that life. For example, what happens when a developing embryo stops growing? This is something that commonly happens within the uterus. However with this language, a clinic could be considered liable for that loss of “human life.”
Is the health department ignoring science? Neither science nor law, indicate human life begins at conception. Science is the foundation of appropriate health care. In Fertility Within Reach’s opinion, arbitrarily making up definitions pertaining to health, without scientific consensus, is reckless. We view the proposed language as an endangerment to patients in need.
What can be done to stop this new language? HHS is currently requesting comments from the public about their strategic plan. You can access this plan via the website: https://www.hhs.gov/about/draft-strategic-plan/index.html
Here are the logistics:
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is seeking public comment on its draft Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2022.
- Your comments must be submitted on or before October 26, 2017.
- You can submit written comments by email, fax or U.S. mail.
- Email: HHSPlan@hhs.gov.
- Fax: (202) 690-5882.
- Mail: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Strategic Planning Team, Attn: Strategic Plan Comments, 200 Independence Avenue SW., Room 415F, Washington, DC 20201.
Don’t believe they’ll care what you say? Please don’t let this assumption silence your voice. Whether you contribute a few sentences or a letter with supportive research, each voice is critical to stop such damaging language. Your participation is requested by this department. You are free to share your concerns, ideas, and even suggested language. With enough people letting HHS know this issue is worth speaking up about, a difference can be made.
Fertility Within Reach
Fertility Preservation Call to Action:
Do you live or work in Connecticut? If so and you support insurance coverage for Fertility Preservation for those diagnosed with cancer, please consider submitting testimony or coming to the State House in person and use your voice. The bill, HB 5968: AN ACT REQUIRING HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR FERTILITY PRESERVATION FOR INSUREDS DIAGNOSED WITH CANER, has a hearing scheduled in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 12pm in the Legislative Office Building, Room 2D, in Hartford, CT. Sign-up for the hearing will begin at 10am in Room 2800. We realize this is short notice.
For those unable to attend, there are opportunities to use your voice:
- Email your support of this legislation to INStestimony@cga.ct.gov. Please note your testimony will become public record. You will be an official, empowered advocate who used their voice to make the world a better place.
- Contact your Senator and Representative to share your support for this legislation. You could request they represent your voice and ask the Insurance and Real Estate Committee members to favorable vote for HB 5968. You can find their contact information at: https://www.cga.ct.gov/
Need motivation or an example, below you will find the testimony submitted by Fertility Within Reach.
February 6, 2017
Re: Testimony of Support for HB 5968, AN ACT REQUIRING HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR FERTILITY PRESERVATION FOR INSUREDS DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER
Insurance and Real Estate Committee
Legislative Office Building, Room 2800
Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Co-Chairman Larson, Co-Chairman Kelly, Co-Chairman Scanlon and Members of the Joint Insurance and Real Estate Committee:
My name is Davina Fankhauser and I am a former infertility patient turned fertility advocate.
As a patient, I remember feeling profound disbelief as I read research stating that those who experienced infertility for two years or more, had the same level of stress as someone diagnosed with cancer.1
My experience was already traumatic. I tried to imagine what it would be like to survive cancer, then face the same stresses I felt as an infertility patient. The idea seemed too cruel from both a physical and mental health perspective.
In the wake of the overwhelming stress of my own experience, I co-founded Fertility Within Reach, a national nonprofit advocating for fertility health benefits.
I wanted to alleviate the financial stressors that come with infertility.
We have a program called “Banking on the Future” that provide grants in order for post-pubertal cancer patients to store their reproductive cells prior to cancer treatment. In addition, our organization provides evidence-based information to increase access to insurance benefits for fertility preservation. It is in that vein I write with my support today, to pass HB 5968.
Massachusetts provides a successful case study to consider. In 2012, I, on behalf of Fertility Within Reach, testified before the Massachusetts Division of Insurance (MA DOI) requesting oocyte cryopreservation (a treatment for fertility preservation) become a required benefit of infertility. Our testimony was vetted and as a result, the MA DOI added Oocyte Cryopreservation as a required benefit within their infertility insurance regulations.2 We were successful by advising the MA DOI that oocyte cryopreservation was neither considered experimental3 nor added any cost to the State.
Fertility Within Reach, along with fertility clinics around the state submitted recommended guidelines related to oocyte cryopreservation for insurers. Subsequently, major Massachusetts insurers chose to voluntarily offer oocyte cryopreservation for iatrogenic illness,4,5,6 meaning, an illness (infertility) that is caused by a medication (chemotherapy, radiation therapy) or physician.7 There is no regulation requiring insurers to cover oocyte cryopreservation for iatrogenic illness, and yet the benefits are still offered in 2017.
Massachusetts insurance companies know the cost is reasonable to provide these benefits. In fact, there are cost savings associated with providing insurance coverage. Furthermore, cost analysis completed in 2013 by the California Health Benefits Review Program, on Assembly Bill 912: Health Care Coverage: Fertility Preservation, found the cost impact on non-grandfathered markets, to provide fertility preservation, was a $0.01 PMPM increase in California regulated plans and policies.8 This number is in line with Connecticut’s lower range estimate of $0.59 PMPM in the associated 2016 cost analysis of HB 5230: AN ACT REQUIRING HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR FERTILITY PRESERVATION FOR INSUREDS DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER.
Fertility Preservation is a critical part of healthcare to those undergoing medical treatment that is expected to render them infertile. As mentioned, research has shown that infertility comes with the same level of stress as someone diagnosed with cancer. For those already dealing with a cancer diagnosis, facilitating fertility preservation coverage protects mental and reproductive health, as well as instills hope in these patients that they have any opportunity to once again live in normalcy and feel peace of mind that they have a chance to build a family one-day.
I urge the committee members to vote favorably for HB 5968, AN ACT REQUIRING HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR FERTILITY PRESERVATION FOR INSUREDS DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER.
I am available to answer any questions you may have.
- Domar AD, Zuttermeister PC, Friedman R. The psychological impact of infertility: a comparison with patients with other medical conditions. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 1993;14 Suppl:45-52.
- Massachusetts Division of Insurance Regulatory Authority REGULATORY AUTIIORITY 21 I .CMR 37.00: M.G.L. chs. 175, I 76A, l 76B, 176D and 1760; St. 1987, c. 394.
- Ovarian Tissue and Oocyte Cryopreservation. The Practice Committees of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. Fertil Steri 2013;99:37-43.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, Medical Policy Infertility Diagnosis and Treatment, Policy Number 086. p7-8 https://www.bluecrossma.com/common/en_US/medical_policies/086%20Infertility%20Diagnosis%20and%20Treatment%20prn.pdf
- Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Medical Review Criteria Infertility Services- Massachusetts, p9. https://www.harvardpilgrim.org/pls/portal/url/item/2076d2ff2d4947a29c38180ffd125aae
- Neighborhood Health Plan, Medical Policy Infertility Services, p5. https://www.nhp.org/provider/medicalpolicies/Infertility_Services_002.pdf
- Medical Definition of Iatrogenic. MedicineNet.com. 2016. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3886
- California Health Benefits Review Program (CHBRP), on Assembly Bill 912: Health Care Coverage: Fertility Preservation. 2013. Report to California State Legislature. Oakland, CA: CHBRP, http://chbrp.ucop.edu/index.php?action=read&bill_id=147&doc_type=2
Fertility Within Reach is proud to work with you to support your advocacy efforts. We hope you will join ours as well. Together, we have our best chance to make an impact.
Thank you in advance for your heart, strength and courage.
“I am thankful that this program is available to children like my son. It gives us reassurance that we are able to do everything we can for his future, without the heavy burden of expense. What a relief to families out there making tough decisions, and knowing that this program is out there to relieve the stress. Thank you Fertility Within Reach.” – Angel
Fertility Within Reach’s Banking on the Future program provides financial assistance, enabling adolescents through the age 21, to store their reproductive cells prior to cancer treatment.
Throughout the year, we support families faced with the financial challenge of covering the cost of fertility preservation as well as cancer treatment. Banking on the Future funds the cost of storing reproductive cells, which can be a significant deterrent to preservation. Sadly, the need is great!
“We see approximately 70 new patients per year, at least 50 of who could likely consider fertility preservation and almost all of our population are likely to find cost a significant barrier.”- Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Join us by supporting the Banking on the Future program. Together we can help ease the immediate burden of families and provide hope for their future.
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Fertility Within Reach today. Donations can be made via PayPal or check, payable to Fertility Within Reach, 1005 Boylston Street, #332, Newton Highlands, MA 02461.
Thank you and best wishes for the coming year.
All my best,
President, Fertility Within Reach
Co-creator, Banking on the Future program
There is great value in the work of Fertility Within Reach. We are proud, being recognized and honored for our accomplishments in advocating for fertility health benefits. However, as a founder of Fertility Within Reach I can say, I’ve never been comfortable asking for financial support, even on Giving Tuesday. Let’s just say, I’m more of a giver. This organization was created to provide information and empower infertility patients to help them access insurance benefits or fund the medical treatment they need. We hope, for the past six years, we’ve provided an additional gift, that no one would feel helpless as they faced this devastating disease.
On Giving Tuesday, I’d like to share some of what we hope to accomplish in 2017.
- Develop and distribute educational materials to lobby for fertility preservation benefits for patients diagnosed with specific medical conditions where their treatment could compromise or eliminate their fertility (including, but not limited to cancer patients).
- Create a video to be used in social media to improve attitudes about infertility treatments such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The research is done. The video script has been tested. We are ready to move forward.
- Exhibit at patient and professional conferences to share our information and resources with others to enable effective communication with policy makers.
- Update the organization’s website to streamline information and provide easier access to resources, making advocacy efforts as easy as possible.
- Provide more grants through Fertility Within Reach’s Banking on the Future program. We cover a critical expense that allows adolescent oncology patients to store their reproductive cells prior to cancer treatment.
We plan to advocate for fertility health benefits and hope you will join our efforts. If you recognize the past, present and future value of our work and would like to contribute a tax-deductible donation to our organization, I humbly say “Thank you.” While we work to elevate the helplessness of others, our organization greatly relies on generous donations from individuals like you.
I sincerely appreciate your consideration and hope to connect in the future.
All my best,
On behalf of Fertility Within Reach, please know we are honored by your support. We are grateful to those who champion the work of Fertility Within Reach. Thanks to your tax-deductible donations, we spent the year communicating with employers such as TJX Corporation (TJMaxx, Marshalls, Home Goods) and the US Congress to gain support for IVF benefits for veterans. Your support also allowed us to present research at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Scientific Congress on “Designing Educational Material to Improve Attitudes about In Vitro Fertilization.” Our overall goal, which you continue to help us achieve, is increasing access to health benefits for fertility treatment and preservation. We are grateful to you!!!
We hope you are proud and encouraged by our progress, hopeful from our success, and inspired by our passion. So much so, we hope you decided to play a role, any role, in helping increase access to health benefits, which we believe will help promote safe pregnancies and healthy babies.
Charitable contributions and supportive methods mentioned below, help fund Fertility Within Reach programs including, (but not limited to),
- Instructional videos on advocating for benefits
- Develop educational materials to share with legislators/members of congress
- Grants for adolescent oncology patients to store their reproductive cells prior to cancer treatment via our Banking on the Future program
- Attend scientific conferences to learn and organize research used in communication when advocating for benefits
- Mail copies of “The Policymaker’s Guide to Fertility Health Benefits” to patients
- Participate in patient conferences to increase our outreach in education patients on how to fund the treatment they need
- Fund research projects. Our evidence-based approach distinguishes us from other groups and makes us complimentary to everyone
If funds are tight, please remember there are many ways to show support for Fertility Within Reach. Here are some ideas other people have done in the past.
- If you are shopping online for Black Friday, please know Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the charitable organization of your choice.
- On your first visit to AmazonSmile (amazon.com), you need to select a charitable organization (such as Fertility Within Reach, Inc.) to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping. They will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation.
- Hold a celebration where in lieu of gifts, guests were encouraged to make a donation to Fertility Within Reach
- Host a tea or dessert for friends/family, tell them about FWR
- Hold a cupcake or yard sale where proceeds are donated to Fertility Within Reach
- Organizing and participating in Crowd funding campaigns on behalf of Fertility Within Reach
- Make a recurring, monthly donation (any amount makes a difference) to the organization
- Volunteer for FWR. Your time is priceless.
- Follow and share Fertility Within Reach content on social media.
With your support, Fertility Within Reach will continue to be one of the most effective advocacy organizations for individuals in need of insurance benefits for fertility treatment and preservation. For that, and so much more, with a grateful heart, we express our appreciation.
All my best wishes,
Founder and President
Fertility Within Reach, Inc.