Infertility is rampant and the incidence of it is growing as more women delay childbearing. At last count more than 6 million couples a year suffer from this heartbreaking condition, according to The National Center for Health Statistics (a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). That’s 1 out of every 10 couples–that’s more than 12 million people suffering the devastation of being unable to have a family of their own.
Not surprisingly, many couples pay substantial amounts of money for medical help to overcome this disability. But interestingly, most health insurance plans will cover the cost of tests to determine whether a couple is infertile, but there the assistance stops. Almost no health plans at this time cover the drugs and therapies required to try to become pregnant.
In Cleveland, Ohio there’s a large city chamber of commerce with a division called COSE (Council of Smaller Enterprises) that provides health care plans for small businesses. Notice was sent out to members this week that, contrary to previous provisions, all coverage for fertility drugs will be removed from all COSE health plans effective January 1, 2005.
These kinds of discrepancies send very mixed messages. You have to wonder what the motivation is behind this withdrawal of coverage in Ohio, when nationally the trend is towards more generous assistance. A state government agency in New York is already supporting infertility treatments in the form of grants to private medical practices that do the work.
Having heard from an official spokesperson for Medicare recently that the goverment is really big on supporting Health Savings Plans (HSAs) as a way for people to cut the cost of healthcare, and this announcement of withdrawing fertility coverage coming in the same letter that announced more advanced HSA options for COSE members almost makes you think that the federal government’s position had some influence on this decision.
Let’s hope this isn’t a trend. Bioscience could develop some new stumbling blocks to free business development if it is.