Economic, social, and cultural factors all have an impact on Americans’ access to effective infertility treatment, a new report states.
Providers and others should understand the disparities and work to help solve them, according to the report, prepared by the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
The report cites research conducted in 2009 by an expert panel that found that less than a quarter—24%—of the assisted reproductive technology (ART) needs in the U.S. population were being met.
Released in September 2015, the report makes several key points, including that economic factors most dominantly fuel access concerns. Most people in the U.S. pay out of pocket for infertility care. Given that a single cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) can cost in the neighborhood of 50% of an average person’s annual disposable income, the treatment is out of financial reach for many in middle to lower socioeconomic statuses.
There also are non-economic barriers preventing access to infertility care, including the time off work required for many who seek cycle-based treatment and the fact that ART clinics and male reproductive specialists are unevenly distributed geographically. If ART clinics aren’t nearby, that time can increase substantially. Other factors that come into play include cultural and social influences that discourage some from getting treatment. Language barriers can contribute to a lack of understanding about treatment availability, and even physician bias might prevent patients from getting needed treatments, the authors wrote.
“Reducing or eliminating barriers to infertility treatment for both men and women is a mission we must undertake as professionals and as advocates for our patients,” said ASRM President Rebecca Z. Sokol, MD, MPH, in an ASRM press release. “Advances can be made on many fronts, including educating the public about infertility and its prevention, expanding insurance coverage, developing lower cost, effective treatment protocols, conducting research, and improving patient-physician communication and outreach about infertility.”