Insurance cover for infertility treatment

October 15, 2018 0 By CH Unnikrishnan

Infertility is fast becoming a huge concern in India. With 30 million infertile couples currently, it is estimated that in the year 2020, 2,50,000 IVF cycles will be performed in the country. Needless to say, the cost of infertility treatments too continues to rise, making it unaffordable to a large number of couples. There is a huge need for the government to make necessary budgetary provisions and insurance companies to cover infertility procedures as well.

The Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction (ISAR) had last year strongly campaigned with insurance companies and the government to make necessary provisions to bring infertility treatment under insurance cover in India. The change has now been brought about by the efforts of the Govt of India, especially 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 10 items, including procedures such as dental, stem cell, infertility and psychiatric treatment, from the list of “optional cover” for health insurance. This would mean that these procedures could be made part of standard insurance policies. Some of them could even be made mandatory! It is heartening to note that infertility has been included in this list—the fact that the Indian insurance sector will now provide insurance cover for infertility treatment will definitely make it more affordable to the millions of couples who need it.

ISAR had proposed to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to make infertility treatment easier for couples seeking treatment for infertility by having it covered under their health insurance plan. And now, with the Ministry of Health considering this proposal, the efforts are bearing fruit.

Research has shown that one in every six couples has a problem conceiving on their own, which is a clear indication of the large number of people who need assistance to fulfill their need to have children. Very often, simple advice or a little help from the gynecologists can help them in their pursuit of having their own biological child. But, occasionally they require advanced procedures like IVF, ICSI,  egg donation, etc. While simpler treatments are manageable and affordable with every gynecologist, advanced procedures need to be undertaken at centres that offer assisted reproduction. However, the fact is that the cost of IVF ranges upwards of ₹1.5 lakh to ₹2 lakh per cycle of treatment, mainly because the cost of the consumables used for IVF and the expenditure involved in maintaining a high-quality embryology lab are high. Hence, a huge number of couples desist from seeking treatment or resort to poor-quality care. Infertility treatment not only involves expenditure, but it also involves a huge amount of investment from the couple seeking treatment. This includes daily injections, the time spent on treatment, giving up on their careers due to frequent visits to the clinic, financial loss, mental agony, and many a times, disappointment when the pregnancy test is negative after such a long ordeal.

Their journey while seeking infertility treatment will definitely be easier now, thanks to IRDAI’s change in policy. We will soon begin to see the effect of this change in the number of patients seeking affordable medical treatment for infertility. In addition, if India can reduce the dependence on imported consumables for infertility procedures by manufacturing them, we will be able to make IVF much more affordable.