What’s happening for infertility patients in Canada?
I wish you could see what I hear. Every. Day. I hear some of the saddest stories you can imagine. Couples remortgaging their houses, leaving the country for infertility care. I hear too some success stories and those are brilliant. But far too much sadness. People who had brutally devastating illnesses like cancer, DIGITS – a rare gastrointestinal illness, Polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis. The list of illnesses is long. Many people I hear from inside infertility groups I help manage, have survived childhood cancer, or they live with a rare gastrointestinal disorder, or they manage endometriosis. They are survivors and they can wear that label with authority and pride, and then they decide it’s time to pursue parenthood and the wind is knocked right out of them. The diagnoses add up. One on top of the next. First endometriosis and then infertility. Fighters. I can’t even bring myself to tell you half of it.
They start that infertility/ fertility treatment process only to be told you need a treatment that in some areas of this country costs $10,000 to $13,000 a round. And they are stopped dead in their tracks. That’s the end of many journeys to become parents.
Three years I have been writing about infertility here in this space and I often get asked by individual patients is anything happening in BC with funding for IVF? What is happening in Alberta for infertility patients? And so on. So I thought I’d put some updates together here. There is a lot happening this year in some provinces. BUT there is very little happening in others and that’s really a shame in a country that prides itself on national health care. This is a women’s health issue and a men’s health issue and a children’s health issue. It’s time to also understand it is a human issue and a national issue in many ways.
Much has changed in the past year for infertility advocates and patients undergoing treatment in this province. The good news is that Ontario pledged support to help build healthier families in the province by funding in vitro fertilization this year. Patients are eagerly awaiting the final program. Patients are anxious as they are trying to make timely decisions about health care and family planning. Members of Conceivable Dreams sat on the advisory panel giving input into how it should look. The program needs to be sustainable and patient members of Conceivable Dreams, the OHIP for IVF advocacy group, have told government what they believe will help to make this program accessible and sustainable and fair.
Infertility Patient Program Highlights:
IVF will be funded this year.
The program is expected to be ready for 2015.
No drugs will not be included (the government has been clear on that. Patients need to advocate now with their employers for better coverage for fertility drugs.)
Both the 2014 and the 2015 Ontario budget pledged support for IVF funding. We believe the program will be ready soon.
Sadly the Quebec IVF funding program has become a big target by the current health minister in that province. Quebec’s ART program was held up as the best in the country and now, although it is expected to still exist in some form, the changes to the program are expected to dramatically impact patients there. Infertility patient groups have spoken out about Bill 20 potentially leading to more infertility medical tourism and therefore a higher number of patients returning to that province to give birth to high risk multiples. That type of outcome will increase health care spending, put women’s and children’s health at risk and it will NOT decrease spending. In fact it is beginning to look like Ontario infertility patients might have better access than any other province soon.
Has a fertility treatment tax credit. 40 % of the treatment fees can be claimed to a maximum of $8,000. That is a good thing but tax credits aren’t perfect either.
Has a one time grant of $5,000 for IVF treatment. Read more about that here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/infertility-treatment-financial-assistance-fund-launched-1.2707380 So yes there is some funding there too!!
Alberta patient group Generations of Hope has been helping families to pay for health care costs of IVF for ten years now. The volunteer patient run Calgary based group raises money through various charitable initiatives throughout the year. They host a family fun day and also a beautiful photo exhibit and auction called Images of Hope every March. The group is active and they also champion funding for IVF, but as of this post in 2015 Alberta still doesn’t have public funding. The recent election provided many more opportunities to educate and advocate for funding with a massive changeover in MLAs. During the election the Liberal party had IVF funding in their platform. The NDP party won the election. STILL this province is waiting and infertility patients wait to build families or take financial, emotional and physical risks that are not okay in a country with a national health care system. They are currently putting their first ever NDP budget together out there and members have been busy advocating for funding.
Saskatchewan: No change despite some advocacy efforts there.
BC: No change there either. A few years ago there was a lot of activity from a patient group in BC. Although the government heard a budget submission and made a recommendation about funding IVF, they did not budget for a program or build one. So there is no IVF funding in BC.
Nova Scotia: has a great but small group called East Coast Miracles. They are now also advocating for funding for IVF.
This is by no means all of the provinces.
Meanwhile the main national body IAAC – now called Fertility Matters, continues to advocate for awareness and funding for IVF.
Ontario will have a program this year…..but much of the rest of Canada still needs access to affordable IVF and fertility treatment. There is a lot going on in the fertility and infertility landscape this next two weeks. CFAS ( Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society annual meeting/ conference ) takes place Oct. 1-4 and one topic they will be discussing is the merits of public funding for IVF.)
Then IAAC/ Fertility Matters is also launching a new web site (they are the national support for infertility patients.) They will now be called Fertility Matters. They are hosting an awareness walk called the Family Matters Fertility Walk at CFAS October 2nd.
Volunteers are still needed and people can sign up any time.
CFAS – https://www.cfas.ca
It’s time to take stock of what’s happening for infertility patients in Canada. Join Conceivable Dreams, the Ontario Infertility Patient Advocacy Group, @IVF4ON myself @inkscrblr @linkedmoms and @downshiftingpro as we talk about what’s happening in Canada right now for infertility patients Thursday, October 1st at 8 p.m. EST.