With election season in full swing, it seems we’re being reminded of our differences of opinion on a daily basis. However, as patients and professionals who deal with infertility, we all agree that helping everyone get the fertility treatment they need is a top priority.
Shady Grove Fertility is always looking for ways to make treatment more affordable and accessible to all families. “We feel frustrated, as providers, when we are sitting across from a patient with infertility that we know we could help, but they can’t afford it,” says Dr. Gilbert Mottla of Shady Grove Fertility’s Annapolis office. “That’s why we developed financial programs that help thousands of families every year and why we advocate for legislation that helps patients access treatment.”
Currently, Shady Grove Fertility is actively supporting a bill that would provide a tax credit for the out-of-pocket costs associated with fertility treatment. The Family Act of 2011 would provide a credit for the costs associated with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and fertility preservation for those with cancer. Experts estimate if the Family Act was passed that 30% more people would be able to afford needed fertility treatment.
“As a practice, we are committed to supporting the Family Act, but we know the real power lies with our patients,” says Dr. Mottla. “We want them to learn how this legislation will benefit them and future patients so they will feel motivated to get involved.”
An Alternative to Adoption
The Family Act is the brainchild of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of people living with infertility through advocacy and improved access to care. RESOLVE is best known for their work on expanding insurance coverage for fertility treatment through advocating for state mandates.
While that remains a priority for the group, Barbara Collura, Executive Director of RESOLVE, explains that they wanted to find other avenues to expand access to care for patients. “We looked at the Adoption Tax Credit that has been in place since 1997. The Adoption Tax Credit allows people who adopt to write-off the expenses they incur in the adoption process. That seemed like a good model to us,” says Collura.
After conferring with colleagues on the Hill, it was determined that a similar law that would provide a tax credit for fertility treatment expenses would probably be able to garner broad, bipartisan support. “We got a lot of feedback saying that this was something that we could get done,” says Collura. “It still took a lot of negotiating and compromise to get the details of the bill right, but we think we have created something that a majority of lawmakers can support.”
So, in May of last year, the appropriately named Family Act of 2011 (S965/HR3522) was introduced in the Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and in the House of Representatives by Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. The bill is also co-sponsored by Rosa L. DeLauro (CT), William Keating (MA), and Richard E. Neal (MA).
Focusing on IVF and Fertility Preservation
The Family Act mimics the details of the Adoption Tax Credit in terms of dollar limits and cost sharing with the patient. Collura explains, “We would have gone further in terms of the amount available for write-off, but we knew that we couldn’t make the bill so expensive that it would cause opposition. We also knew that if we mirrored the Adoption Tax Credit, it would be less of a burden on the IRS to learn and implement new rules. That’s one less hurdle for the bill to overcome.”
The main provisions of the Family Act are:
- Covers the out-of-pocket costs associated with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) including diagnostic tests, laboratory charges, professional charges, and medications.
- Covers the out-of-pocket costs for fertility preservation procedures if the man or woman is diagnosed with cancer, and the cancer treatment or disease itself may result in infertility.
- Has a cost sharing provision allowing 50% of all applicable medical expenses to be covered up to a lifetime maximum of $13,360. That means you would need to have out-of-pocket costs totaling $26,720 to claim the entire credit in your lifetime.
- If you do not owe taxes in a particular year, do not owe enough taxes to use the whole credit, or do not reach the max amount in one tax year, it carries over to the next year for a max of five years after the first year you use the credit.
- The Family Act is available to couples filing jointly with adjusted gross incomes of less than $222,520, but the credit is smaller for those earning between $182,500 and $222,520.
Shady Grove Fertility’s Support
Shady Grove Fertility has a long history of advocating for fertility patients. In fact, we proudly accepted RESOLVE’s Hope Award for advocacy 3 years ago. “Because we are in Washington, DC, we have the privilege of being able to contribute a medical perspective on legislation” says Dr. Mottla. “Fertility issues are sometimes misunderstood, so we take pride in being able to help lawmakers understand why our patients need their support.”
To provide their perspective on the Family Act, the doctors and staff at Shady Grove Fertility took part in RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day. “A group of us went to Capitol Hill for the day and lobbied our Senators and Representatives to support this bill,” says Dr. Mottla. “We also worked with RESOLVE to get more sponsors added to the bill.”
In addition, Shady Grove Fertility is hosting a Town Hall Meeting on the Family Act to provide information about the bill and spread awareness of its impact to the general public. All of Shady Grove Fertility’s current and past patients will be invited, along with members of Congress, the local media, RESOLVE and our physicians. The town hall meeting will be at our Rockville Maryland office on Tuesday October 30th 2012 at 7:00pm.
“We see firsthand how devastating infertility can be for our patients. We never want to see them denied access to the treatment they need or have them drop out of treatment before they reach their goal because of the financial burden,” says Dr. Mottla. “So, whatever we can do to help this bill pass – raise awareness with our patients, call our congressional representatives, testify before legislators – we are willing to do it.”
What You Can Do
RESOLVE has set up a webpage that provides everything you need to contact your representativesin a variety of ways. However, Collura says that a phone call gets the most attention. “We know that calls from constituents are a big deal to lawmakers, so we urge everyone to take a few moments to call your elected officials. You probably won’t talk directly to them, but you will connect with their legislative assistants. Legislative assistants are key to getting your message delivered directly to your Representative or Senator.”
A personalized letter is also a great way to convey your support. “We have a form letter available on our site, but we know that personal stories work best,” says Collura. “If couples share what they’ve gone through with infertility and attach a photo of themselves or of the child they had because of treatment, that would make a great impact.”
You can find all the information you might need to support this bill on the RESOLVE website, including addresses, phone numbers and sample letters. Click hereto get more details on taking action.
In late November, after the presidential election, members of Congress will return to Capitol Hill to complete their legislative work for the year. During this session, both the Adoption Tax Credit and the Family Act will be considered in the course of debating and passing other bills. “When the Family Act comes across their desks in November, we want legislators to know what it’s about and how it affects their constituents. That’s why now is the perfect time for our patients to get involved and contact their elected officials in Congress” said Dr. Mottla.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please speak with one of our friendly New Patient Liaisons by calling 888-761-1967.