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In some circles, fertility treatment is perceived as waste of money. However, this argument, which is usually based on the belief that the business bearing children is a fundamental human right, will not stand the test of time.
Fertility treatment should be available on public-oriented health insurance schemes just like in the advanced countries. The kind of scheme would be one that is not only more equitable, but more widely applicable.
The underlying principle of health insurance is that people should not have to pay in order to enjoy good health. The argument then shifts to whether infertility is
an illness or merely an obstacle to a lifestyle choice.
Although the initial emphasis of health insurance was aimed at taking care of the more serious life-threatening conditions, the service has long since moved beyond the so-called narrow a definition of health.
Admittedly, the original idea should retain the higher priority as we cannot overlook the recognition that good health is much more than the mere avoidance of illness.
Much preventive medicine, these days, is a matter of encouraging people to follow certain lifestyles rather than others.
For instance, mental health may have a lower priority in the health insurance scheme than it deserves because of the often unspoken prejudice that mental illnesses are “all in the mind”, but no one would now argue that psychiatry should be available only to those who can afford it privately.
It is difficult to draw an easily demarcated line between making people healthier and making them happier. For most purposes, a healthy individual should be a happy individual. So why should something like assisted conception initiatives not be approved on the health insurance scheme if the misery occasioned by it on an individual is great enough?
It is understandable how the problem of defining wellbeing, and therefore the legitimate objectives of the health scheme, could tempt policy-makers to restrict the health insurance scheme to dealing with killer diseases and accidents and emergencies, while looking to private insurance for the so-called lifestyle treatments, of which fertility would always be described as one.
For many couples facing infertility; time is already not on their side. This coupled with the extended and prolonged waiting period for fertility treatments has left many couples frustrated and searching for answers. In that amount of time you might as well try your luck the old fashion way.
Even then, unlike in the UK for instance where the Human Embryo Fertilisation Authority is the main body which oversees and regulates fertility clinics and also provides information on licensed clinics, in this country, there are no government funded initiatives for infertility treatment, only private fertility clinics are available to provide the required service, and they can be pricey.
Assisted fertility treatment does not come cheap, but even this should not deny anyone its benefits. In practice, private clinics can provide more options and less waiting before treatment is initiated. Often a consultation appointment can be scheduled within the week and treatment initiated soon there after.
The usual advice is that when deciding to go private, it is a good idea to get a cost analysis from numerous fertility clinics. It is also important to ask if the cost of drugs is included in the price. If some prices seem much lower than others, it may be due to this discrepancy.
The bottom line is that waiting for fertility treatment is one of the biggest problems facing the health care system. For many couples especially that with limited funding in underserved areas, deciding on fertility treatment is extremely difficult. Although fertility tourism offers a cheaper alternative, the quality of care may be compromised. Weighing the cost of care against the time to hold your precious baby, is an unfortunate reality in this world.
With this in mind, it cannot be right to say that only the rich are entitled to fertility treatment or that if you cannot have the treatment that is right for you because you are unable to pay for it.
Infertility may not be life-threatening, but it is a malfunction that can be rectified. It is wrong to exclude people from the means to fulfillment on the basis of physical difference.
This is not to argue that IVF treatment should be available on demand.
Rather, we could say argument should be that, much more needs to be done in spreading the best practice of cheaper treatments that ought to be tried before procedures like IVF or ICSI.
Of course, there will always be pressure on resources earmarked for health in this country, and there will always be the complex and infinitely contestable ranking of priorities in health treatments. But this can not be enough argument for abandoning a huge area of health care like infertility treatment to the private sector alone to handle.