A set of stickers for parents included in the GNWT's baby bundle program. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
More babies born would mean more federal transfer payments, Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby argued in the legislature this week when encouraging the GNWT to cover the costs of residents’ fertility treatments.
“The GNWT does provide services to treat underlying medical conditions that may cause infertility. However, when it comes to in vitro fertilization, or IVF, it is not covered and there are no plans to include it here,” Nokleby said.
The cost of IVF starts around $15,000, she noted, and said families that take that route shoulder all of the costs associated with the medical procedure as well the cost of travel and accommodations.
Nokleby suggested the cost of providing fertility treatments would be quickly covered by the amount each baby successfully conceived through the medical procedure would bring to the NWT in federal transfer payments (which operate to a formula that rewards the NWT for having extra residents).
“Fertility financial support would likely only be accessed once, maybe twice, in a lifetime and would not be a recurring annual cost. As little as a $20,000 investment in supporting residents to conceive would return $37,000 annually in federal transfer payments per each newborn.
“Often a person’s desire to build their family is so great they will move away from the NWT to be closer to treatment sites, or to avoid continuous travel and work disruptions,” she said, resulting in the NWT losing even more people.
Nokleby reminded her colleagues that one in six couples struggle with fertility, and that in the NWT it can take up to eight months to get an initial appointment with a fertility specialist.
But health minister Julie Green becoming pregnant is “not a medically necessary intervention provided by our healthcare system.
“We have no plans to change that,” she said.
“We’ve done a jurisdictional scan, and there are some large jurisdictions with big populations and big revenue bases that can support specialized services such as fertility treatments. But that is not the case here, and fertility treatments are not covered,” Green explained.
In Canada, IVF is publicly funded in some provinces through either grants, tax credits, or subsided or fully covered treatment programs.
Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland, who questioned the health minister on the same topic in May, followed Nokleby by questioning Green’s statement that the GNWT supports treatment of underlying conditions that cause infertility.
“I have constituents who have underlying medical conditions requiring treatment before IVF is possible and this is not supported by the GNWT or by medical travel. So who decides what conditions are recognized and which ones are not?,” Cleveland asked.
Green was not able to answer the question, saying she would need to take it on notice.