Good access to infertility treatments may depend on where you live. A new fertility report card names and shames states that don't do enough for TTC couples.
Struggling with infertility is no fun for anyone—but you don't have to battle it alone. Sometimes having the right support network can make all the difference for couples trying to conceive. With this in mind, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association has ranked each state in the U.S. on its "fertility friendliness" in the shape of its Fertility Scorecard, released on May 14th, in honor of the organization's Advocacy Day 2015.
The score for each state is based on insurance coverage for treatments, the number of specialists, and the amount of RESOLVE support groups it has. The highest scoring states were Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, while the lowest were Alaska, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
States' scores varied widely
The report reveals a huge disparity among states in access to and affordability of treatments. "One of the strongest contributing factors was whether or not a state has a mandate for employers to cover infertility in their health insurance programs, and to what extent," Barbara Collura, president and CEO of RESOLVE, told Fit Pregnancy. "Only 8 states have a mandate to cover IVF treatments. In more rural states, access to medical specialists is harder to find—some states have very few REs [reproductive endocrinologists, or fertility doctors] practicing in that state, or in some cases none at all. That of course creates very limited access to care. And in many states, there are not enough support groups relative to the number of people with infertility."
A low score, though, is not a reflection of the quality of medical care. "Rather, it is looking at different measures of support services and access to medical treatment," Collura says. States that received top grades still have room for improvement. "We need to be vigilant in these states to ensure access remains strong," she says, noting that the scorecard marks key states for action with a blue dot. "In those states, the fertility mandate may be in jeopardy as a result of the Affordable Care Act, or the state lawmakers may have a history of trying to pass laws that negatively impact the infertility community." Spreading infertility awareness
Collura says that the goal of the report is to create conversation among patients, insurance companies, lawmakers and employers about the need for better access and affordability of treatments nationwide. "One in 8 couples in the U.S. have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy, yet many people do not get the treatment they need to help them have a baby," she says. "People who are having trouble getting pregnant face many issues and barriers to treatment. The three criteria that the scorecard measures—emotional support, access to medical care and financial support through insurance—are equally important to a patient in their fertility journey. When people are supported, they reach resolution faster."
Treatment for infertility is often seen as controversial or a "lifestyle choice," but Collura stresses that infertility patients should receive the same care as those dealing with any other disease. "We know that infertility exacts an enormous toll on both the affected individuals and on society, but unfortunately since infertility is not a life-threatening disease, some states may decide not to mandate coverage of infertility treatment, and some may decide to take away an existing mandate," she says. "We hope to motivate individuals to take action to improve their state's fertility friendliness, and to understand that they can be part of a larger movement that can impact change in their state."
Wonder how your state measures up? Visit resolve.org/fertility-scorecard to find out.