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Oncofertility: Passing House Bill 2617

Why Illinois Legislators Need to Pass House Bill 2617


Click here to read the article about this legislature in the Chicago Tribune.

**Update: May 22, 2018 | The Senate has passed the bill and it is now on to the Governor's office for a signature or veto. More details to come!

**Update: May 11, 2018 | The Illinois Senate Insurance Committee unanimously passed the bill! HB 2617 is going to the full Senate for a vote - which means that our Senators need to hear from us!

**Update: May 1, 2018 | The Illinois House passed HB 2617 by an overwhelming margin at the end of last week, which would require insurers to cover fertility preservation for patients facing chemotherapy or other medically necessary treatment that may render them infertile. The bill will now be heard in the Senate Insurance Committee, which means Committee members need to HEAR from YOU!

Click here to send a letter right now - it takes just minutes to send a letter, which will be sent automatically if your Senator is on the Insurance Committee.

**Update: April 4, 2018 | 150 letters from Fertility Centers of Illinois patients and fertility advocates have been sent to Illinois lawmakers already - let's keep this ball rolling...spread the word!**

Can you imagine accepting a cancer diagnosis and the loss of your ability to have a genetic child at the same time? Among surveyed cancer patients, preserving fertility ranks second to mortality in priority.  Right now with current Illinois laws, insurance does not need to cover fertility preservation for cancer patients. The passage of Illinois House Bill 2617 would change that.

Fertility preservation allows patients to freeze sperm, eggs, and/or embryos prior to receiving cancer therapy that could remove their reproductive abilities. As cancer treatments continue to improve, allowing for many to win the fight with cancer, the focus shifts to survivorship issues. Approximately 5 percent of patients at Fertility Centers of Illinois are seeking oncofertility services, such as egg freezing, prior to chemotherapy. Why not more?

Studies have demonstrated that cost and a lack of insurance coverage remains a key reason why patients do not pursue fertility preservation.

Despite this, fertility preservation is not universally covered by insurance. Legislature has provided other quality of life treatments, such as breast reconstruction, to be included in comprehensive cancer care. Although breast reconstruction is significantly more expensive than fertility preservation, it remains a key quality of life measure that is covered.

We hope that Illinois will join Connecticut and Rhode Island in passing fertility legislation to assure truly comprehensive cancer treatment coverage for men and women. At the time of this blog, additional legislation pushing to address this inequity is also in progress in California, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland.

CLICK HERE to send a message to your Illinois state representative in support of Illinois House Bill 2617.

Fertility Centers of Illinois has provided fertility preservation services since 2004 for egg freezing and embryo freezing earlier than that. Costs are reduced for cancer patients and partnerships with pharmaceutical companies exist so that infertility medications are provided with minimal or no cost.

We know patients pursue a consultation with a fertility clinic to learn about fertility preservation, while many others may deter based on the perception of cost. We are likely not seeing many patients that believe the treatment is too costly and on top of dealing with a new cancer diagnosis, the ability to navigate the health care system becomes too daunting.

While we see many patients pursuing these services, no one understands this issue more personally than they do. We have invited them to share their thoughts and experiences with us.

Patients Support IL HB 2617:

At 23, I was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkins-Lymphoma. The minute the diagnosis left my doctor's lips, time seemed to stop. I went from excitedly anticipating the next comic con with friends or the latest Star Wars movie to numbness. Here, in front of me, I had a man telling me what my future looked like from here. I was told I was going to lose my hair, I was told about the change in my weight, I was told that I couldn't even be around my pets. Those, however, didn't strike me as hard as the final phrase: "You may be rendered sterile". Suddenly, nothing else felt like as big of a problem than that. Hair grows, weight changes, and I'd see my pets again.

But this? This was permanent, and it made me feel the most helpless. For years I had been paying into health insurance that, with the exception of an annual wellness visit, I never used. I figured that since I hardly ever used it, It would be something that gave me something to be hopeful about in such a dejected time in my life, but I honestly felt abandoned. When you have cancer, you feel a loss of control in your life. Freezing my eggs allowed me to take some of that control back by giving me options I thought I was robbed of, but this option came without the help of my insurance.

Months later, I am still receiving bills for my egg retrieval that insurance said they would help with but have failed to make good on their promise. I don’t want another woman to ever experience this. Knowing that these options are available to women in situations like mine-- situations where you can control very little, it is imperative that we give women a say in their future without having to weigh in on the consequence of debt or bankruptcy.

An insurance company should not have the power to determine what they deem necessary for a woman's future. I am asking our legislators - stop giving life choices to the hands of insurance companies, give that choice to the people. Cancer already robs women of their time, you shouldn't also rob women of this choice. Everyone - please call and email your legislators and support Bill HB 2617 to demand that women have access through insurance coverage to these vital healthcare services.

-Erin Keith

I am a 38 year old female who was diagnosed with Stage 4 Thymus cancer. It is a less common form of cancer that most have not heard of. I was diagnosed last year after 5 years of dealing with medical issues, which I know now, to have been cancer related. When I got the news of having cancer, it's as if time stood still. I remember sitting in the doctor's office and hearing the doctor speak, but it's as if nothing was registering. I was confused and didn't understand what was happening. After more doctor's visits and discussing more the plan to treat me, the question of fertility came up. I am a little older now and have had a desire to start a family of my own sooner then later. Now with cancer that prospect has become even less now for someone like myself. I was told that one of the medications would impact my fertility. I was then informed about fertility preservation, but I had to move fast.

I contacted my insurance company, but was informed that fertility preservation was not covered. I could not afford this on my own and decided to inquire on other support to help me pay for this treatment. I went into my savings account and with support from FCI, I was able to take back some control over my life, over cancer and preserve my fertility.

Please support HB Bill 2617 and give those people whose fertility is being impacted by a medical issue the opportunity to be able to save their fertility. No person should have to be faced with such tough decisions when going through such a difficult time.


Our Physician Team Supports IL HB 2617:

While working for the state, I published the significant impact that insurance coverage has on decision making for cancer patients deciding to pursue fertility preservation. I am proud to be a part of an organization such as Fertility Centers of Illinois that is able to discount prices for cancer patients, but I am aware we do not reach all that should or could be treated.

Universal coverage is what is needed so that cancer care can truly be comprehensive. For those of us on the front lines seeing patients and families debate pursing treatment due to costs amongst the intense stress of a cancer diagnosis, we know that universal coverage is needed. I have taken care of patients that did not pursue fertility preservation and have survived their cancer but are now unable to have a biological child. We as a society can do better. - Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, Director of Fertility Preservation with Fertility Centers of Illinois

From my perspective, I have seen several patients that seek fertility preservation and for one reason or another, cannot follow through. Many times the limitation is financial, occasionally, they are too sick to undergo fertility preservation treatment and have to go straight to their cancer treatment. If breast reconstructive surgery can be included in coverage, I’m shocked that fertility preservation is not. Everyone has the right to health care and thus, to be able to procreate, regardless of race, sexual orientation, etc. So why is it that these individuals are not provided with coverage to help preserve their ability to procreate in the future? - Dr. Asima Ahmad

Fertility preservation through egg vitrification is a medically necessary option for patients whose fertility is threatened by chemotherapy. - Dr. Jane Nani

This bill should be passed without question. It is proactive in allowing men or women who are destined to lose their reproductive ability the option to still parent biological children, otherwise they are forced to depend on the future use of donor sperm or eggs. It is consistent with the Illinois State Mandate which provides for standard fertility care.
-Dr. Edward Marut

This would be an amazing opportunity for our patients who are having to go through cancer treatments in order to protect their ability to have a family in the future. It breaks my heart that patients cannot pursue treatment due a lack of insurance coverage. Our oncology and surgical colleagues are so successful in treating cancers - patients are being treated and are able to go on to have the families they always wanted. - Dr. Allison Rodgers

I strongly support passage of IL HB 2617. This support is important since any woman who unexpectedly faces a diagnosis of cancer or any serious illness that will take away her future ability to have a child deserves to be able to receive insurance coverage for medically necessary expenses for standard fertility preservation services. - Dr. Laurence Jacobs

Fertility Centers of Illinois supports everyone’s right to reproduce regardless of gender, race, orientation and medical condition. If an opportunity arises to help lower the chance of infertility it should be undertaken when the person may want a family in the future. Fertility preservation is often cost-prohibitive for individuals so House Bill 2617 increases the chance that any individual can do something to avoid becoming infertile. - Dr. Christopher Sipe

I strongly support a bill on the House floor, Bill 2617, that amends the Illinois Insurance Code to provide that a policy of accident or health insurance shall provide coverage for medically necessary expenses for standard fertility preservation services when a necessary medical treatment may directly or indirectly cause iatrogenic infertility to an enrollee. This bill will provide more available infertility services across a broader range of patients who seek family building. Please contact Fertility Centers of Illinois with any questions. - Dr. Meike Uhler

Among the many concerns faced by individuals about to undergo treatment for a serious medical condition is the fear that when they complete treatment and regain their health, they may no longer have the ability to have a biological child. This important bill will help allay some of those fears and provide the opportunity to preserve their reproductive health when they come out on the other side of their illness. - Dr. John Rapisarda

The entire team at Fertility Centers of Illinois supports the passage of Illinois House Bill 2617 and supports all cancer patients and patients experiencing medically-induced infertility to have access to fertility preservation services through insurance coverage. Please call and email your local legislators to support passage of this bill.

Let’s all move forward with positive change for cancer patients across Illinois!