On August 27, 2018, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner will sign in to law HB2617, which will ensure insurance coverage for oncofertility and fertility preservation patients. Illinois will join four other states that have passed similar legislation. This is a huge milestone for the field and on behalf of the Oncofertility Consortium, we congratulate the advocates, patients, and others who worked tirelessly to make sure this important bill was signed in to law. A special thanks to our own Kristin Smith and Megan Connolly who attended multiple hearings, appeared multiple times before the House and Senate, and shared their personal stories to move this important issue forward. They are outstanding advocates and representatives for the entire field and none of this would have been possible without their dedication and hardwork.
Director of the Oncofertility Consortium, Dr. Teresa Woodruff echoes the sentiment and said: "With House Bill 2617, the State of Illinois recognized that preserving fertility in the cancer setting is a medical need and that insurance should be provided to ensure young adults don’t have to choose between life preserving treatments and fertility interventions. This is a win for families across our state!".
Our extraordinary patient navigator, Kristin Smith, traveled multiple times to the state capital, Springfield, and worked with former patients and advocates to move this important legislation forward. Below is a message from her on the importance of this bill and what the new law means for patients across the state of Illinois.
As a Patient Navigator for Oncofertility at Northwestern Medicine and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, I work with young adults whose lives are upended by a major diagnosis like cancer. Fortunately, modern advancements in cancer treatment protocols, coupled with widespread early detection programs have led to extended life expectancy and improved survival rates. However, radical surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy can leave patients infertile or unable to have biological children.
Major medical organizations like the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network all state that the treating oncologist has a responsibility to inform patients about the risks that their cancer treatment will permanently impair fertility and discuss fertility preservation options at the earliest opportunity possible. After these conversations are initiated, patients are referred to fertility specialists who can offer options like sperm or egg banking. Unfortunately, these fertility preservation options can be costly and many patients are shocked to find that even though it’s a recommended service by their physicians and major medical organizations, insurance doesn’t typically cover the costs associated with these treatments.
Illinois House Bill 2617 addresses this gap in insurance coverage by giving people with diseases like cancer access to fertility preservation and the hope of becoming biological parents after treatment. Without passage of this legislation, a woman or man of child-bearing age undergoing cancer treatment could lose the ability to have a biological family permanently. To date, four other states have passed similar legislation and Illinois will be joining that elite list on Monday at 2:30 pm when Governor Bruce Rauner signs this bill into law.
This landmark bill solidifies Illinois as a leader in reproductive medicine and shows the legislative support that will enable Illinois to continue this legacy. Illinois is home to the Oncofertility Consortium of Northwestern University - a game changer in the landscape of fertility preservation. The Oncofertility Consortium has helped to push to science of fertility preservation forward in an unprecedented way by breaking down the interdisciplinary barriers that can prevent the trans-formative research necessary to move a new field to the bedside. As the science continues to march on, now patients can take full advantage of the options available to them based on medical necessity, not their bank accounts.