Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fertility Treatments and the Economic Crisis

Once, in an interview for a Californian newspaper, I was asked whether, in light of the difficult security situation in Israel, people were undergoing less fertility treatments. I answered an unequivocal no, that maybe the opposite is the case, that a worthy answer to war and terror is to have more children. In fact, sometimes we find couples who lost a child who come to have another child feeling that this is their best response to their loss.
However, the present economic crisis has added a dimension to fertility treatments around the world and I would like to discuss this over the next couple of weeks.
We will speak about the situation abroad next week, but I would like to concentrate on Israel in this column.
The current law in Israel is that the Kupat Cholim (the Israeli equivalent of an HMO) is required to pay for most fertility treatments until the couple have two children. While there are other countries in Europe that offer some insurance coverage for fertility treatments, Israel's is still a unique situation. When we compare this with the US where couples can pay thousands of dollars for treatments and can expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars in order to achieve a healthy child, it is truly remarkable.
In addition, this has catapulted Israel to the forefront of fertility treatments; doctors have a tremendous amount of experience with difficult cases and unusual circumstances not often seen in other places around the world.
This law that offered fertility treatment through the Kupat Cholim has been in effect since there has been a Health Ministry and was passed in 1995. However, recently there was talk of changing this law and making fertility treatments available only through private clinics, or at least severely limiting the accessibility of treatments. 
This would have changed the dynamic of fertility treatments in Israel and would have prevented thousands of couples from ever holding their own children, ever dressing them up for Purim, ever shepping nachas at their Bar or Bat Mitzva. Several secular fertility support groups mobilized in order to explain to the politicians the importance of not changing the law and of encouraging demographic growth. The Puah Institute joined with them to form a strong alliance that cut across party and religious lines and it may have been this incredible unity that was able to keep the law as it remains to this day.   The Puah Institute for Fertility and Gynecology in Accordance with Halacha is based in Jerusalem and helps couples from all over the world who are experiencing fertility problems. Puah offers free counseling in five languages, halachic supervision, and educational programs. Puah has offices in New York, Los Angeles and Paris. To contact the Puah Institute please call 1-800-071111 in Israel or in the US 718-336-0603.                
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