Insurance for reproductive services leaves some veterans behind
By Patti Borda Mullins | The Frederick News-Post, Md. | Published: December 30, 2015
FREDERICK, Md. (Tribune News Service) — In the 2½ years Kevin Jaye was recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center from injuries he suffered after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2012, starting a family was not the first thing on his mind.
If Army Sgt. Jaye had been thinking about a family, and had been married then, his military insurance would have covered the cost of the fertility procedures he needs for him and his new wife, Lauren, to make a baby. He lost a leg and a testicle because of the explosion, and now requires sperm extraction and in vitro fertilization to impregnate his wife.
In January, he finally went home from the hospital to Hagerstown, and he and Lauren married in August.
Waiting until he left the Army to start a family, however, meant losing insurance benefits that pay for the fertility treatments he needs, each round of which can cost $8,000 to $10,000.
Insurance covers those costs for active-duty service members whose fertility was compromised by a combat injury. Those benefits do not extend to veterans after they leave active duty.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology and the Jayes are lobbying Congress to change the law that affects the insurance coverage.
“I think it’s definitely ... an oversight,” Kevin Jaye said.
The societies and the Jayes aim to see the fertility benefits extended to non-active-duty veterans by the end of the 2016 congressional session.
In November, the Society for Reproductive Medicine announced that many of its members would discount the price of fertility services to injured veterans who do not have insurance to pay for the treatments.
“This is what we’ve tried to do to solve this problem until Congress will legislate a solution,” said Dr. Jason Bromer, a reproductive endocrinologist at Shady Grove Fertility Center in Frederick. “As a member of the society, I am interested and involved in making this program successful.”
Bromer has had the Jayes as patients as they planned their family.
The Jayes have been able to pay Bromer for their in vitro treatments because Lauren has insurance through her job as a public school teacher in Washington County. Her insurance, however, has a $30,000 lifetime cap on fertility treatments.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is willing and eager to provide in vitro benefits to wounded combat veterans when IVF would be their only means of conception, Bromer said. But “there is an old law that bans in vitro benefits to veterans,” he said.
In part, the matter is caught up in abortion politics, because the fertility treatments may involve fertilizing more than one egg and creating excess embryos. Discarding unused embryos has drawn criticism from anti-abortion advocates.
The bill to change the insurance has come up and stalled several times in Congress, but the Jayes are publicizing the situation to get the law changed. Meanwhile, Kevin Jaye has started studying computer technology at Hagerstown Community College.
Kevin and Lauren used nearly half of her $30,000 coverage on their first round of IVF, which was unsuccessful. “It’s not going to last very long,” Kevin Jaye said of their remaining benefits.
But he and Lauren got an early holiday present this year. They learned Dec. 21 that a second round of IVF has been successful, and she is pregnant.
An estimated 1,800 to 2,300 veterans have lost reproductive abilities related to combat injuries, Bromer said.
The ASRM has 103 fertility centers agreeing to provide “deeply discounted IVF treatments to wounded combat veterans ... in partnership with pharmacies who will provide drugs,” Bromer said.
“Hopefully, with what we’ve been doing, that can light a fire under Congress,” Kevin Jaye said.
“I don’t think they realize, basically, the necessity [of IVF for] ... wounded veterans like myself,” Jaye said. “They want us to reproduce. Our kids are going to have all the values and everything that you want the next generation to have.”
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