Medical insurance for infertility treatment: First step towards empathy

Dr Duru Shah, Director, Gynaecworld, Center for Assisted Reproduction and Women’s Health, shares how insurance policies can help the infertile couples to opt for affordable and safe treatment

IVF

Infertility is fast becoming a huge concern in India. With 30 million infertile couples currently, by 2020, as many as 2, 50,000 IVF cycles will be performed in the country.

Needless to say that the cost of infertility treatments, too, continues to rise, making it unaffordable to a large number of couples.

There is a need for not just insurance companies to cover infertility, but the government too, need to chip in and make necessary provisions in the union budget to bring infertility treatment under insurance cover.

That is why, during my presidential year (2017-2018) at the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction (ISAR), I made it my mission to push insurance companies and the government to make necessary provisions to bring infertility treatment under insurance cover in India.

Premature menopause and its management
Dr Duru Shah

I am delighted to see the change brought by the Govt of India, especially, in the division heading the Ayushman Bharat programme and the Insurance Regulatory Authority of India!

In August 2018, the Insurance and Regulatory Authority of India (IRDAI), asked for the removal of around ten items, including procedures such as dental, stem cell, infertility, and psychiatric treatment, from the list of ‘optional cover’ for health insurance. It means that these procedures can be made a part of standard insurance policies. Some of them could even be made mandatory!

I am happy to see infertility included in this list – the fact that the Indian insurance sector will now provide insurance coverage for infertility treatment will make it affordable for the couples who need it.

As the President of ISAR, I dedicated the year 2017- 2018 as -ISAR’s year of Empowerment: through Education, Ethics and Empathy.

The empathy here implied is empathy for infertile couples. As a part of my mission, I met with insurance companies, the Ministry of Health, and campaigned to make infertility treatment easier and affordable for infertile couples, by having it covered under their health insurance plan.

Now, with the Ministry of Health considering this proposal, I am happy to see my efforts bearing fruit. I must compliment the Ministry of Health for having responded so quickly and positively.

Research shows that one in every five to six couples face a problem in conceiving their own child. It indicates the large number of people, who need assistance to overcome their need of having children.

Often, simple advice or little help from a gynaecologist helps them to have their biological child. However, occasionally they require advanced procedures like IVF, ICSI, egg donation, or other.

Simpler treatments are manageable and affordable with every gynaecologist, but advanced procedures need to be done at centers, which offer assisted reproduction. However, the fact is that the cost of IVF ranges upwards of Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh per cycle of treatment, mainly because the consumables used for IVF and the cost of maintaining a high-quality embryology lab are high. Hence, many couples resist seeking treatment or resort to poor quality care.

Infertility treatment not only involves high expenditures but also demands a colossal amount of investment from the couple – it includes daily injections, time spent on treatment, giving up on careers due to frequent visits to the clinic, financial loss, mental agony, and many times, disappointment when the pregnancy test is negative after such a long ordeal!

Their journey, while seeking infertility treatment, will be easier, thanks to IRDAI’s change in the policy. I am sure we will soon begin to see the effect of this change in the number of patients seeking affordable medical treatment for infertility.

On another note, if we start manufacturing consumables under the ‘Made in India’ programme, instead of importing them, which increases the cost of treatment, we will be able to make IVF much more affordable than it is today!