We are so fortunate to live in Ontario, which is one of the few places in Canada that has partial coverage for fertility treatments including IVF. While healthcare in Ontario is publicly-funded, fertility treatments are usually not. Surrogacy demands IVF, and our IVF journey has not been an easy one. Here we share with you the ins and outs of using provincial funding for your fertility journey.
What program covers IVF in Ontario?
In Ontario, IVF coverage is offered through the Ontario Fertility Program (OFP), a public-private-partnership where a pool of funds is distributed to private fertility clinics. Unlike the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), which is universally accepted socialized medical care and accessible through your Ontario Health Card, the OFP funds are distributed only to women seeking coverage. Typically, the coverage is available for unlimited Intra-uterine inseminations (IUIs) as well as one round of IVF or fertility preservation (FP) for those in medical need. Every woman in Ontario is eligible for a funded cycle if she will be carrying the pregnancy herself, and an additional cycle if acting as a surrogate.
How do I access the funding?
Nearly 50 clinics in Ontario are able to distribute the funds to eligible patients in the method of their choice. Some clinics have a ranked waitlist, others use a lottery system. Our clinic, CReATe Fertility Centre, distributes funds on a first-come first-served basis each year. Funding arrives in April and can be accessed until it runs out, typically in late fall. While we were able to get a funded cycle of IVF in October, in a future year or at a different clinic, your experience might be different. It is best to confirm all of the details regarding that year’s funding with your clinic manager or finance office.
How does funded IVF differ in a surrogacy journey?
IVF offered through OFP funding is tracked through the person getting pregnant and not the Intended Mother of the child. In our case, Baden and I were listed at ‘secondary patients’, with the primary patient being our surrogate Sarah. The government looks at us as ‘egg and sperm donors’ on her funded cycle. Since we needed the name of our surrogate to access her funding, this was the reason we couldn’t begin IVF until after we had matched.
Being considered third-party egg and sperm donors on our surrogate’s funded cycle, we were required to undergo additional testing in accordance with Health Canada’s Suitability Assessment of Sperm and Ova Donors. These tests are only required when you are creating a new round of embryos with the intention of using them with a surrogate. These test were expensive (several thousand dollars) and not covered by OHIP, OFP, or any other provincial funding method.
Although our round of IVF was funded, it by no means covered all our costs. The funded cycle covers the cycle monitoring, retrieval, fertilization (via ICSI), freezing, thawing, and transfer. It did not cover storage, biopsy, embryoscope, testing, or things like supplements, medications, or clinic parking, all of which add up quickly.
We’re incredibly grateful for the funding currently offered in Ontario, but have quickly learned that it is not a perfect or an equitable system. Women on surrogacy journeys already face immense emotional and financial strain, and to deny them access to a funded cycle of IVF as a primary patient can make their journeys even more challenging.
Each case is different, and this blog holds the most accurate and up-to-date information we’ve received as of November 2021. If you have any questions about the OFP, or funding for fertility treatments in your jurisdiction, feel free to reach out to us. We would be happy to help answer any questions we can or point you in the right direction.