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If you're poor, fertility treatment can be out of reach

Michelle Andrews, KFF Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Mary Delgado’s first pregnancy went according to plan, but when she tried to get pregnant again seven years later, nothing happened. After 10 months, Delgado, now 34, and her partner, Joaquin Rodriguez, went to see an OB-GYN. Tests showed she had endometriosis, which was interfering with conception. Delgado’s only option, the doctor said, was in vitro fertilization.

“When she told me that, she broke me inside,” Delgado said, “because I knew it was so expensive.”

Delgado, who lives in New York City, is enrolled in Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income and disabled people. The roughly $20,000 price tag for a round of IVF would be a financial stretch for lots of people, but for someone on Medicaid — for which the maximum annual income for a two-person household in New York is just over $26,000 — the treatment can be unattainable.

Expansions of work-based insurance plans to cover fertility treatments, including free egg freezing and unlimited IVF cycles, are often touted by large companies as a boon for their employees. But people with lower incomes, often minorities, are more likely to be covered by Medicaid or skimpier commercial plans with no such coverage. That raises the question of whether medical assistance to create a family is only for the well-to-do or people with generous benefit packages.

“In American health care, they don’t want the poor people to reproduce,” Delgado said. She was caring full-time for their son, who was born with a rare genetic disorder that required several surgeries before he was 5. Her partner, who works for a company that maintains the city’s yellow cabs, has an individual plan through the state insurance marketplace, but it does not include fertility coverage.

Some medical experts whose patients have faced these issues say they can understand why people in Delgado’s situation think the system is stacked against them.

 

“It feels a little like that,” said Elizabeth Ginsburg, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School who is president-elect of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a research and advocacy group.

Whether or not it’s intended, many say the inequity reflects poorly on the U.S.

“This is really sort of standing out as a sore thumb in a nation that would like to claim that it cares for the less fortunate and it seeks to do anything it can for them,” said Eli Adashi, a professor of medical science at Brown University and former president of the Society for Reproductive Endocrinologists.

Yet efforts to add coverage for fertility care to Medicaid face a lot of pushback, Ginsburg said.

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©2024 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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