British Columbia

B.C. Liberals call for public funding of in-vitro fertilization

Opposition party says the B.C. Medical Services Plan should cover one IVF treatment cycle for individuals and families earning $150,000 or less annually.

A new party policy calls infertility a valid medical condition that should be covered by the province

A single cycle of in-vitro fertilization can cost $10,000 to $20,000. (Submitted by Dr. Thomas Hannam)

The B.C. Liberals say it's time for the province to start paying for in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

The policy position, unveiled Thursday, calls for public funding of one IVF treatment cycle for individuals and families earning an annual income of no more than $150,000. According to the party, infertility is a valid medical condition that should be covered by the B.C. Medical Services Plan. 

"It's high time that we do something to help the thousands of people throughout our province looking for support to overcome barriers to creating a family here in B.C.," said Leader Kevin Falcon.

One in six couples in Canada experiences infertility —  about 16 per cent — according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. A spokesman for the B.C. Liberal Party said the funding plan has the potential to help an estimated 1,800 B.C. couples — including LGBTQ couples — who seek IVF treatment every year.

Generally, IVF involves taking eggs from a woman's body, fertilizing each with a single sperm and then implanting one or more of the eggs back in the uterus. Pregnancy happens if any of the embryos implant in the uterine lining.

One round of IVF treatment costs between $10,000 and $20,000 depending on the medications and tests required. Often it takes multiple rounds of IVF to produce a baby.

Laura Spencer, fertility coach and former IVF client, said the procedure is simply unaffordable for many couples. She said it's common for those who go through the treatment to end up with significant debt.

"[Funding] would be life-changing for a lot of British Columbians," said Spencer. "It can take many, many months or years to save for IVF and when it comes to fertility, time is of the essence. It can be the difference between having a baby or not, or being a parent or not." 

Across Canada, there are different public funding models for IVF. 

Quebec and Ontario both have programs that pay for one round of IVF treatment, similar to what the B.C. Liberals are proposing.

Nova Scotia and Manitoba offer a tax credit of up to 40 per cent of treatment costs.

New Brunswick has a one-time grant of $5,000, while in PEI, IVF grants run from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on family income.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, IVF treatments are subsidized at $5,000 per cycle, to a maximum of three cycles. The funds are also intended to support travel as there is no IVF provider in the province. 

Alberta and Saskatchewan — like B.C. — do not publicly fund IVF.

While funding IVF would open the door for many British Columbians, B.C. Liberal MLA Karin Kirkpatrick said it would not put additional strain on the province's overburdened health-care system.

"There are specialist doctors in British Columbia who deal with IVF and it's not an interruption of other medical services that British Columbians are looking for," she said. 

Kirkpatrick said the B.C. Liberals, who currently sit in opposition to the governing NDP, will implement the policy if they form government.

with files from B.C. Today

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