I’ll be in DC next week for a bunch of meetings, mostly speaking with people about a bill that provides $3.4 billion in additional care for vets. I am involved because the bill currently includes an amendment to provide IVF benefits to wounded vets.
These sorts of policy battles always start out with a rough and sad story, like that of Matt and Tracy Keil. I am all for our veterans—our wounded vets, our retired vets, and our active duty vets. When I hear about the substandard medical care they receive, or the long waits to get much needed care, it truly breaks my heart.
But the push for this legislation makes absolutely no sense to me. Which is why I’ll be trying to inform and educate as many people as I can in DC on the realities of assisted reproductive technologies.
Here are some of the points I will make when I meet with people on Capitol Hill:
1) Most IVF cycles fail. The CDC data is available to anyone online. Why spend resources on treatments with such a high failure rate when our vets need so many other important services?
2) The amendment proposes $20,000 in benefits. A single IVF cycle costs between $12,000 and $15,000, and that is not using “donor” eggs/sperm or a paid surrogate.
3) My sense is the majority of vets looking to IVF will be men who have suffered an injury that has damaged their fertility (of course there will be some women too, but the majority will be men). In the many cases I am imagining, IVF would not be truly necessary. Rather, lower-tech artificial insemination with the vet’s own sperm would be suitable. Artificial insemination costs $300 – $500. From the details provided in NPR story linked above, artificial insemination rather than IVF could likely be used to treat Matt Keil.
4) If a wounded vet were to look to egg and/or sperm from a third party, and/or a surrogate womb, this raises myriad ethical, medical, and legal risks. And the costs skyrocket.
5) If government wants to create another entitlement, why would it stop with wounded vets? Many will say, why not add these benefits to the Affordable Care Act for all U.S. citizens? What we see with entitlements is that covering something for a few quickly moves to covering it for all. In fact, we are already seeing insurance mandates for coverage of IVF for people with no medical need.
Given that most cycles fail, the high costs, and the availability of lower-cost alternatives in many cases, I simply don’t understand why this is considered good policy.
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.