As of last month, Ontario expanded its in vitro fertilization (IVF) funding to help families struggling financially with infertility, and the executive director of a non-profit that serves infertile Jewish couples said she expects to be a lot busier because of this new development.
“We are thrilled with this new initiative. We think it’s great,” said Denise Levin executive director ofSmall Wonders, which helps couples financially, emotionally, medically and halachically.
The province will fund one IVF cycle per eligible patient through an annual $50-million investment. This includes one egg retrieval, which may yield multiple eggs and result in multiple embryos.
Until now, Ontario only provided funding to women with blocked fallopian tubes.
Levin explained that funding one complete round means that “if they retrieve 10 eggs and those 10 eggs turn into 10 embryos and you want to have one of those embryos implanted, you can come back 10 times each time transferring one embryo until you’ve exhausted them, and the government will cover that complete cycle.”
One cycle of IVF costs about $10,000, with drugs and other associated costs adding thousands of dollars more to the cost.
“The cost of medication for IVF can range from $4,000 to $8,000,” Levin said.
“What is not funded is the storage of embryos, the pre-genetic screening, egg freezing fee, which is huge – it’s $7,000. That is something for a person who wants to save their eggs because they are getting older and they’re not in a relationship and don’t expect to be pregnant soon.”
Levin said some of the “wrinkles” the government still has to work through has to do with how they will address wait lists.
The government has allocated the IVF funding to about 50 clinics throughout the province, she said.
One of the things that’s unclear about the waiting lists is what happens to a potential patient who’s called by a clinic to undergo treatment, but declines “because I just took a new job and I can’t afford to take off six months,” Levin said.
“At some clinics, I’d go back to the bottom of the list… What happens to me? Do I have to wait for 200 people ahead of me? Those are wrinkles that need to be worked out. People have extenuating circumstances and can’t drop their whole lives to do this,” she said.
“Some clinics are using the lottery system… Some are going one by one down the waiting list and some are saying, ‘We understand that you have issues, and life happens, so call us back in a few months when you’re ready to do this, and in the meantime, we’re going to take the next person.’ Clinics are making their own rules, and people should be aware when picking a clinic and the clinic should be transparent about how the IVF funding works.”
Levin said when it comes to the new government funding, her staff will continue to help Jewish couples grow their families and provide financial support.
“We expect to be busier in 2016. We will still provide additional services in terms of the emotional support, which is a huge component. We still will provide financial support to qualifying Jewish couples, and we will still continue to provide halachic support,” Levin said.
“We are going to make sure everybody benefits, especially our couples, although we have no control over getting our couples to the top of any list. We just want to make sure that the people who want free IVF are seeing the right doctors, and we want to help them there.”
She said Small Wonders receives daily updates on the new IVF initiative and will provide its clients with the most up-to-date information about how to navigate the often overwhelming world of infertility.