Millions of couples silently struggle with infertility, and the costs of trying to combat it can be in the thousands for a single month. The high price point of fertility treatments makes it inaccessible for many. That’s why one nurse practitioner, Tara Brandner, DNP, APRN, FNP-MS, of Ashley, North Dakota, is waging a legal battle for people struggling to get pregnant.
Dr. Brandner, who suffers from endometriosis, welcomed her son, Hayden, in January 2018. In the years leading up to the birth, she spent some $38,000 on three rounds if IUI and one of in vitro fertilization. It was such an emotional experience that in her pregnancy announcement, she included the dozens of syringes necessary to get her there.
“I was very quiet about my journey at first,” Dr. Brandner tells Florence Health. “I only told my family and handful of friends, and as I got deeper into treatment, it was really lonely place.”
This hardship—as well as the health policy fellowship Dr. Brandner enrolled in through the AANP—inspired her to fight in the North Dakota legislature for a bill requiring health insurers to cover the cost of infertility care. Under the bill, egg extraction and storage, medication, ultrasounds and lab tests all must be covered. It also addresses the needs of cancer patients, who often struggle with infertility as a result of radiation and chemotherapy.
Dr. Brandner began her work, in partnership with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, in October 2018. By November, she already had a sponsor for the bill, Sen. John Grabinger, a Democrat.
“As a healthcare provider, I see other ridiculous things that are covered by insurance,” she explains of her reasoning for the bill. “You don’t want to acknowledge infertility? I did cross fit and the paleo diet, but it didn’t affect my infertility. It’s a disease where nothing can be done, and it’s not covered.”
In February, the bill failed to pass in the state senate, but Dr. Brandner’s still fighting. She’ll be on the floor sharing her story during the next session in 2021, and in the interim, she’s talking to local lawmakers and insurers to educate them on the other states who’ve passed similar laws, including New York and Delaware. She also openly discusses her advocacy and shares the stories of other couples on her Facebook page, Beating the Infertility Stigma in North Dakota.
These other families affected by the high cost of fertility treatments have been a huge motivator for Dr. Brandner, as well.
“I’ve had more and more people locally coming up to me telling me, we’re putting mortgages on our house, maxing out credit cards, taking out loans—just to start a family,” she says. “People have told me, ‘You’re giving me a platform to share my story.’ Finally, their voices are being heard.”