Between armed forces regulations and frequent travel, military families lead a different lifestyle than many Americans. When these families need fertility treatments to become parents, they have different options and benefits available, too.
Military families face some special challenges. The cost of IVF is a deterrent for many families and especially those with limited incomes like military families. Also, frequent relocation and deployment can make it a challenge to receive continuity of medical care. But all this means is that families serving in the armed forces need to be aware of their options. Military life doesn’t have to be a deterrent to parenthood.
When natural conception isn’t successful, a military family may be able to begin fertility treatment in a local Military Treatment Facility (MFT) with a Primary Care Manger (PCM). However, most of these facilities do not have the medical specialists or equipment necessary to provide high-tech fertility treatments. And referrals to clinics or reproductive endocrinologists outside the military health care system are expensive. But there is another option if the service person or spouse is able to travel for treatment.
The Department of Defense has four facilities that provide infertility treatment, including IVF. These facilities are Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, and Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. To participate in the program the patient must be Tricare eligible, and be referred by their regular health care provider to one of these medical centers’ gynecology clinics (these facilities do have waiting lists). Patients must pay for their own travel, lodging, medications, and embryologist and IVF coordinator fees. These expenses typically total between $2,500 and $3,650 ($2,700 to $5,600 when medication is included). Compared to the cost at most civilian facilities, which average around $15,000 per IVF cycle, this is a significant savings. Contact information for these medical centers:
Naval Medical Center, San Diego, California
Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas
Families who want to avoid the extra travel can research local options for fertility treatments. Some clinics offer their services at a discount to military families. The Sher Institutes for Reproductive Medicine, for instance, with locations across the country, offers a discounted payment program called the Military Access Plan (MAP). For more information visit haveababy.com/baby/index_baby.cfm?&city=local&page=fin_consid.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of Conceive Magazine.