Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation Tuesday that would require insurers to pay to freeze the eggs and sperm of people with cancer who undergo treatments that could hurt their chances of one day having children.
Cancer treatments can harm fertility. Chemotherapy and radiation can damage reproductive organs and cells, as well as the glands that produce key hormones. Women, for instance, may no longer produce eggs after radiation to the pelvis
The treatment for some cancers also requires the removal of the reproductive organs. A woman may need a hysterectomy, or a man may have his testicles removed and no longer be able to produce sperm.
Some fertility preservation procedures can cost as much as $20,000, making them cost prohibitive without insurance. The law requires insurers to pay for harvesting and freezing the eggs and sperm but not the annual storage costs.
About 79,000 adolescents and young adults of child-bearing age are diagnosed with cancer each year, according to The National Cancer Institute. Some are too young to even have thought about having a family, but they are faced with the decision about how to preserve their fertility.
"For many young cancer patients, loss of fertility is an unfortunate side effect of treatment. But the fact is, we have the medical means to preserve the possibility of parenthood for these patients," Brock Yetso, president and CEO of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, said in an email. "Parenthood is a fundamental life function that shouldn't be eliminated due to disease or financial barriers. We're proud to say that, in Maryland, fertility preservation is now an affordable reality for the majority of cancer patients."