Ontario proposes IVF funding

by DaniGirl on August 27, 2009 · 37 comments

in Infertility

My jaw dropped open in surprised delight when I heard yesterday that the province of Ontario is considering funding up to three attempts of in vitro fertilization (IVF) through OHIP. Hello (Ontario Premier) Dalton McGuinty? Between this and the all-day kindergarten thing, I think I love you.

I haven’t had time to read through the entire report yet, but I will and I’ll write an informed summary and analysis when I do. (Um, I still owe you that second post on the Senate Child Care report too, don’t I? It’s on my list, I swear!)

Anyway, here’s what I think of the recommendation at first glance: yippee!!!, with a healthy side of “It’s about farking time!” As most of you know, my first son Tristan was conceived through IVF in 2001, so I admit to a strong bias on this. But you know what? Given the horrible amount of misinformation and misconceptions (snicker) that swirl around the issues of reproductive technologies, people who have been there and done that truly are in a better position to evaluate the proposals.

I find it rather ironic, in fact, that (assuming the recommendations are implemented) our reproductive years will have fallen smack dab in the middle of the decade and a half during which IVF was not funded through medicare. Up until 1994, IVF was funded in Ontario, and continued to be funded for women with two blocked fallopian tubes. I’m quite happy with how things turned out for us, though, and wouldn’t change a thing — but I sure would love to know that other families don’t have to abandon their dreams of having a family simply because they can’t afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments.

Here’s why I think IVF should be funded not just in Ontario, but in all provinces and territories.

As the media has noted, one of the driving forces behind the recommendation to fund IVF is the idea of reducing multiple births. Multiple births are expensive on the health care system — there are higher incidences of premature births, c-sections, and intensive neo-natal care. One of the conditions of public funding would be that Ontario’s 14 fertility clinics would have to agree to stricter controls on the number of multiple births, which they would do by making more stringent the rules about the number of embryos that are transfered during an IVF cycle.

(I’m a bit removed from the latest clinic culture these days, but in 2001 when I was 32 years old, they would not allow me to transfer all three of our surviving embryos. We were allowed to transfer two and elected to have the third one frozen. So the clinics haven’t exactly been irresponsible to this point in time anyway. I’ve always been a little bit shocked to hear stories of clinics – largely in the US – that would allow the transfer of up to five or more embryos for a woman undergoing her first cycle, who is young and otherwise healthy.)

The idea, then, is that the amount that would be spent to fund up to three attempts of IVF would be offset by the reducing the costs to the system that result from currently high percentages of multiple births. What’s not mentioned, IMHO, is the value to the system of us creating all these little future taxpayers. Aren’t we all wringing our hands about declining fertility rates?

One other argument that I don’t see in the current media coverage is this: currently, Ontario does provide funding for other fertility treatments like Clomid and intrauterine insemination (IUI). I’ve never used Clomid (a drug that essentially causes you to ovulate more than one egg, thus increasing both your chances of conception and your chances of multiple births) but we did try two cycles of IUIs with superovulation, meaning they used drugs to torque my reproductive system into producing multiple eggs, took a sample of Beloved’s junk and ran it through a gyroscope-thingee (really!) to filter out all the poor swimmers, and had the surviving sperm squirted into my uterus.

The difference between IUI and IVF, then, is a much higher rate of control of the number of conceptions that occur. With (currently funded) IUI, multiple rates are much higher and completely out of the clinic’s control — millions of frisky sperm seek out up to half a dozen fertile eggs. With IVF, the conception occurs in the labratory instead of the uterus, and the doctors place one or two embryos into the uterus, hoping they will implant and grow. It’s the difference between using a calligraphy pen or a bucket of paint to dot your i, if I can make up an analogy.

As an aside, as many of you know, though Tristan was conceived through IVF, Simon and Lucas (and the babies we lost in 2000 and 2006) were conceived naturally. Beloved had an OHIP-funded surgery on his bits in 2001, while I was pregnant with Tristan, because he was in considerable discomfort. (You have to be in a lot of discomfort, I think, to have elective surgery down there — spoken as someone who will never know!) As a consequence, his fertility improved dramatically and obviously. So we might have been able to avoid the whole cost of the infertility treatments had the fertility doctors recommended this OHIP-funded surgery before the IVF.

You know what I would even consider as a reasonable compromise, for those of you who feel that taxpayer dollars should not be funding fertility treatments? Fund unsuccessful treatment cycles. Including two IUIs, a cycle of IVF with ICSI, four years of frozen embryo storage, and the costs to thaw and transfer Frostie, we easily spent $10,000 or $12,000 to overcome our infertility. I think you’ll agree that my darling Tristan is worth every penny times a thousand. We’re lucky that we never had to face the unimaginable agony of an unsuccessful round of IVF treatments compounded by the idea of spending all that money for naught — just try to imagine spending everything you have, financially and emotionally, and coming away empty-handed.

At the very least, this proposal levels the playing field just a little bit for people facing infertility. This editorial, written by a couple who have filed a discrimination complaint at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, outlines some of the ways in which the current system of funding for reproductive technologies in Ontario are discriminatory. Two blocked fallopian tubes? You get three funded IVF attempts. Testicles fried from the radiation to treat Hodgkins disease? You’re out of luck. PCOS? So sorry. Low ovarian reserve? Too bad. Poor sperm motility or mobility or count? Yer on yer own, buddy.

Anyway, I’m all over the place here. As you can see, even after all this time I still react passionately to stories about infertility and reproductive technologies. (Hal, if you’re reading, now you know why infertility is one of the metatags on my blog!) I am beyond delighted to see that Ontario is considering funding up to three cycles of IVF for eligible families, and applaud the province of Quebec for its forward-thinking policies in this area. Once I read the report, I’ll come back with another post and try for a more detached tone. (Anybody want to take bets on how long I’m able to maintain that illusion of detachment?)

What do you think? (And yes, I’m open to dissenting opinions, so long as they are expressed with respect. And you realize that there’s nothing you can say that might change my opinion on this one!)


{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 BeachMama August 27, 2009 at 9:50 am

It’s about time, is all I have to say. Perhaps a little to late for me, but at least others will have a chance.

2 Windex August 27, 2009 at 10:04 am

I may not agree with your all-day kindergarten opinion but I am with you on this one (I have never had to go through any treatment). It would be nice to see those crappy HST dollars going somewhere nice
Though I for sure do not agree with the whole I love Dalton

3 Chantal August 27, 2009 at 10:10 am

I never needed IVF but I do support this wholeheartedly.

4 Fawn August 27, 2009 at 11:14 am

That’s great news! I know TWO families who have triplets because of IVF, so I can see that stricter controls might be needed for some clinics. A friend here in Whitehorse was told by the clinic that at age 32 (or thereabouts) her chances of implantation were “too high” and they would only transfer two eggs. Lucky, too, as she now has twins from that attempt!

5 Lynn August 27, 2009 at 11:45 am

Do you think that if the government funds IVF, that they will have more and more say into how it is used? Already they would like to control the number of embryos that are implanted…do you think that eventually they will want to control factors like the age of the woman, the age of the man, the maximum number of children they can already have, their annual income? I like to think that that will not happen, but…hm.

I suppose if the government does put restrictions like this on IVF clinics, private clinics will open. It’s just an interesting foot in the door for increased regulations and I’m not sure that is a good thing.

6 renee August 27, 2009 at 1:34 pm

I have just heard about this. And I’m from out of province. For the past 2 years my husband and i wanted to return home to ontario, but my ferility doctors are in edmonton (a 10 round trip) and we decided to stay to help my pcos and to have a better chance at concieving. however today my doctor told me there is nothing left for him to do, no drugs, nothing but to do ivf. We are young, but to come out with that amount of money up front, well, it isnt a option for us as of right now. after hearing about ontario possibly legalizing ivf, my heart leaped. if a province is willing to do that, im hoping that it will reach accross canada. im praying that this will be within reach very soon, because so many people want to have children or even a child that can’t, and the emotions that people have to go thorugh is sometimes unbareable. im for this wholeheartedly, and i will do whatever i can to help promote this 😀 thanks for hope

7 Anne August 27, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I agree with this 100% even though it will come to late for us…we sign our IVF consent forms in a few weeks. Nobody should have to go through this heartache.

I’ve been thinking about writing a comment to that article but I have to wait for my blood to stop boiling, I have never seen such awful comments. Some even went as far as to suggest that if a couple is infertile then it’s the univers’s way of telling them they shouldn’t be parents. Ugh.

8 DaniGirl August 27, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Renee and Anne, wishing you great success in your upcoming cycles!

Anne, I have been studiously avoiding reading the comments on any of the media articles. I swear, the worst of humanity troll the comment section of the major media outlets!!

Lynn, I don’t think the state currently has much say on whether you get, say, knee surgery or an MRI or whatever, so I think it would be similar here. I’m optimistic on this, I know, but I would hope that most of that stuff is left to the judgement of the involved people and their doctors.

9 Anna Epp August 27, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Really??? RT @DaniGirl Blogcasting] Ontario Proposes IVF Funding!! http://bit.ly/2jJVaq (What do you think?)

10 sky girl August 27, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Infertility was the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life. To not have to add financial worries to it? Priceless.

BTW, it’s worth mentioning that although the actual IUI is covered, the “washing of the sperm” is not. And very rarely are the superovulation drugs covered by insurance companies. I would say that my IUI cost about $1300 or so. Still nowhere near the cost of IVF but still pretty pricey.

11 Amber August 27, 2009 at 4:35 pm

I think that funding IVF makes a lot of sense on many levels. I am glad that Ontario is moving in that direction. I hope that the rest of the provinces follow suit, and very soon.

12 Rebecca S August 27, 2009 at 5:43 pm

RT @DaniGirl: [Blogcasting] Ontario Proposes IVF Funding!! http://bit.ly/2jJVaq (What do you think?)

13 Pam August 27, 2009 at 9:25 pm

yay. That’s all I have to say. YAY.

14 yvy August 28, 2009 at 12:10 am

well said.
i was praying that all my promiscuity would have paid off in blocked tubes but alas it is a botched childhood surgery on my husband’s testicle that is our problem.
we are about to try ivf with icsi. (sp?) – our only hope for a family after 12 years together. wish us luck.
if this looks like it may get into legislation before i turn 42 i will be happy to insert one embryo. if not it’s the possibility of twins for me.
we just want to be parents to future tax payers like everyone else.
thanks for your note.
y

15 smothermother August 30, 2009 at 6:46 pm

I am so thrilled that this is proposed and really hope that it comes through. We were told that likely hood of having children naturally would be slim to none. We didn’t have any money (still dont! ack) to do the treatments so we were ready to resign ourselves to not having kids. Luckily Max was a little miracle baby that we didn’t have to do anything for, but our lives wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have him. I hope other couples won’t have to come to that decision now.

16 Jen August 30, 2009 at 8:14 pm

When my husband and I heard about this proposal, we were elated. We have been struggling with infertility and fertility treatments for 3 years. After our 4th failed IUI, we are getting closer to dealing with the fact that IVF may be our only hope for a family. Infertility has been a very emotional experience for us and when you add on the financial burden, it makes it feel impossible to deal with at times. If this proposal is accepted, it would make the dream of a family come true for so many couples. No one deserves to live childless because they can’t afford treatment. Infertility is not a choice…it is a MEDICAL CONDITION and needs to be recognized as just that!!!

17 Rebecca August 31, 2009 at 11:45 am

Excellent! Finally, there may be help for families who do need it.

This is a step in the right direction…

18 Barbara September 17, 2009 at 6:18 pm

My Husband and I have just decided to try out “Clinic #3” in 2 years. Due to both fallopian tubes being removed, IVF is our only option. Though OHIP will fund a portion of the procedure, we still have the meds, fees, sperm washing and whatever else they can squeeze out of us. Like most “Ontario families”, we are barely getting by on what we make as it is, and to dish out money we don’t have on something that we both desparately want, is unbelievably hard. I swear these clinics prey on people’s desparation. I emplore the Ontario Government to hear the loud cries of all the couples that are longing for a child, and finally fund IVF.

Regards and best of luck to all who are in the same boat.

19 Jamie September 18, 2009 at 8:26 am

My husband and I have been going through infertility treatments for over 2 years, with 6 failed IUI’s, IVF is our next step. We aren’t in the financial position to spend that kind of money on this treatment, but with the continued failed attempts our doctor is suggesting we move ahead because he hasn’t been able to pinpoint why we can’t conceive.
I am very excited about this news I hope that this is passed and couples like us have a chance to have a family.

20 Alma September 24, 2009 at 3:32 pm

IVF babies born from embryos that are frozen and thawed are less likely to be underweight or premature than those conceived during fresh treatment cycles, research has shown.
http://bit.ly/OGquG

21 Cindy Burgess January 12, 2010 at 2:40 pm

All I wanna know is WHEN lol….I am now 40 and my husband is 47 and we only got married two and a hlaf yrs ago and wanted children but I have PCOS and IVF may be our only hope but man it;s expensive and I know it’s only funded if it’s proven a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked ( both ) , it shouldn’t be like that though, I think the gov’t will find that lots of women nowadays are having trouble conceiving and that kind of practise should be covered!! I have taken the drug Clomid a few times but to no avail yet, if anyone can help me with any answers or any advice please email me. Good luck to all of you!!

Cindy

22 Cindy Burgess January 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Further more some Clinics have a spot on their sites where you can finance to have a baby, that is just so sad and of course many couples are so desperate they will do anything and these clinics know that and prey on that. Pretty sad when couples need to take out a loan to have a child!!

23 Michelle January 23, 2010 at 4:44 pm

just wondering any news regarding OHIP paying for IVF treatments. I have gone through one treatment and no good result, I would like to try again but when I heard about this proposal, I thought I;ll wait and see if OHIP will pay for it. Thanks

24 Michelle January 23, 2010 at 4:53 pm

My husband and I have been going to a fertility clinic now on the 4th year, Been through 7 failed IUI’s and 1 failed IVF, I have PCOS, and failed IVF was told to lose weight because tubes are too high up and when doctor was retieving eggs a nurse was pushing down on my pelvic. I am concerning on changing clinics. I have been married for 10 yrs and we really want a family, I am 32 and husband is 49

25 Anonymous May 28, 2010 at 8:39 am

Sounds great! Too bad all of us “unexplained infertility” patients don’t get to enjoy the opportunity, but I am very happy that someone will.

26 Angie May 28, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Hi there I just came across your blog, searching IVF covered in Ontario through google. Can you tell me what you currently know on this subject. I have both tubes blocked and was told under these circumstances I would be covered, BUT I called the ministry of health today and was told “no” that it’s not covered???? Can you help?

Thanks,

27 Liz October 8, 2010 at 8:03 pm

My husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer almost two years ago and that was subsequently the cause of our infertility issues. Our only chance of conceiving was through IVF (ICSI to be more specific). Through this, we have a beautiful, healthy baby girl and we are waiting in hopes for Ontario of fund IVF treatments to conceive baby number two.

28 Charlene October 23, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Hi, my boyfriend and i have been trying to have a baby fior three years. My right fallopian tube has to be taken out and the want to talk out my left. Both are blocked. I do not live in ontario but we are so desperate, we are thinking about moving there. It is pretty sad that we will have to move all the way out there, away from our families just to have a baby. My boyfriend does have some family there that we are more than welcome to live with, but I dont want to leave our family and friends we have here. I have lived here forever and i dont want to start over.The government here told me many times i was on my own and there is no way they will help. They do not see any change at all in the health care system here for a very long time. I am only 24 so i know we still have time, but we want a baby now. We have a lot of love to give and need to have a baby of our own. Everyone who has any kind of fertility issues understands that when u see a pregnant women or anyone with kids it is heatbreaking. So what i really want to know is how long are the waiting lists and what all do i need to qualify for ontario health care. How long does it take for it to kick in? If anyone can give me answers that would be a great help.

29 sandra strawbridge December 31, 2010 at 1:00 pm

My son and daughter-in-law have been trying for years to get pregnant. They both went for tests and my son found out that he has vas defrens (which means he was born without the tube that would release the sperm) The only way they can conceive a child would be through in vitro. Without government help they can’t afford this procedure. It makes me angry when our tax dollars are sent to other countries to help them out in their time of need and I feel sorry for them and their tragedies. But I also think we should look after our own people who are paying the taxes and looking after their needs. Why is Quebec looking after the need for in vitro. Are we all not part of Canada. This option should be offered in all of our provinces. Please do something to to help my Kids. A distraught none Gramma.

30 Melissa April 14, 2011 at 7:06 am

Hi I’m a 26 year old woman, yesterday i had surgrey and found out that both of my tubes are blocked.. My gyno said that we will be able to do ivf… I’m super excited that the gov will pay for it as i would never be able to pay for it.. therefor we would be left childless… i’ve always wanted a child or children for nothing in my childhood was normal and i want the chance to give a chlild everything that i’ve never had.. Thank god for ivf

31 sam July 21, 2011 at 11:52 am

HI, I am 30 years old and I was told that IVF would be covered because I have endometroisis. Is this true?

32 Ann January 9, 2012 at 10:51 am

I have been abattling with PCOS for years and have been trying to have a child for 5 years. I finally conceived in Nov 2011 with an IUI however I miscarried on Dec 27 and we lost our angel. Even the IUI’s cost arround $1200-$1500 with the cost of drugs. It’s heart breaking to be fighting infertility and trying to come up with the money for the treatments. It’s since 2009 that the statement of funding IVF was made, however, it’s now 2012 and nothing more has been said or done. Infertility is a medical condition, why can people see this!

33 cristina micallef February 24, 2012 at 9:27 am

Hi my name is cristina micallef and i have suffered with infertility since puberty, i suffer from endomertiosis, PCOS, scare tissue that coverd my whole intier reproductive system leaving my tubes damaged ! i have tried with my fiance many times to concieve a child and i have spent hundreds of dollars on medication to help my problem, but still nothing ! I am asking where i could get subsidized treatments or help funding my situation? do you know where i could go get help with my situation ?

34 DaniGirl February 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Cristina, I wish I knew more. In the three years since I wrote this, as far as I know nothing has happened. For any infertility treatments, you have to start with your family doctor and then get a referral to a fertility clinic. Your doctor and the fertility clinic will both have information about subsidies and funding.

The comments on this post break my heart. I wish you all peace and joy and the families you deserve.

35 Joanne Horibe May 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Dani: I just found this post and am very saddened that this still has not come to pass. As you wrote, three years ago, the McGuinty government was considering funding upto three cycles of IVF. Then came an expert panel on infertility and adoption and they too recommended reinstating funding for several reasons, not the least of which was the benefit to health care systems. By funding upto three cycles of IVF and adopting policies that reduce the number of multiple pregnancies through IVF, the panel estimated that the province of Ontario would save between $400 to $550 million over the next decade. And yet, two years later as we head into Mother’s Day weekend I am still fighting for the recommendations to be acted upon. I am saddened by the fact that many couples in Ontario still struggle and still remortgage homes just to conceive a child. When will Ontario act on these recommendations and do the right thing?

Thanks for the great post and for your personal approach to this topic.

Joanne Horibe,
founder of Conceivable Dreams, the OHIP for IVF Coalition

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