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Meet the Nurse Practitioner Fighting to Make Infertility Treatment More Accessible

NP Tara Brandner never wants another couple to have to max out their credit cards just to start a family.

Millions of couples silently struggle with infertility, and the costs of trying to combat it can be in the thousands for a single month. The high price point of fertility treatments makes them inaccessible to many. That’s why one nurse practitioner, Tara Brandner, DNP, APRN, FNP-MS, of Ashley, North Dakota, is waging a legal battle for people struggling to get pregnant.

Dr. Brandner, who has endometriosis, welcomed her son, Hayden, in January 2018. In the years leading up to the birth, she spent some $38,000 on three rounds of IUI and one of in-vitro fertilization. It was such an emotional experience that in her pregnancy announcement, she included the dozens of syringes necessary to get her there.

“I was very quiet about my journey at first,” Dr. Brandner says. “I only told my family and a handful of friends, and as I got deeper into treatment, it was a really lonely place.”

This hardship and the health policy fellowship Dr. Brandner enrolled in through the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) inspired her to fight in the North Dakota legislature for a bill requiring health insurers to cover the cost of infertility care. Under the bill, egg extraction and storage, medication, ultrasounds, and lab tests must all be covered. It also addresses the needs of cancer patients, who often struggle with infertility due to radiation and chemotherapy. Dr. Brandner began her work in partnership with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association in October 2018. By November, she already had a sponsor for the bill, Sen. John Grabinger, a Democrat.

“As a healthcare provider, I see other ridiculous things that are covered by insurance,” she explains. “You don’t want to acknowledge infertility? I did cross fit and the paleo diet, but it didn’t affect my infertility. It’s a disease where nothing can be done, and it’s not covered.”

In February, the bill failed to pass in the state senate, but Dr. Brandner’s still fighting. She’ll be on the floor sharing her story during the next session in 2021. In the interim, she’s talking to local lawmakers and insurers to educate them on the other states who’ve passed similar laws, including New York and Delaware. She also openly discusses her advocacy and shares the stories of other couples on her Facebook page, Beating the Infertility Stigma in North Dakota.

These other families affected by the high cost of fertility treatments have also been a huge motivator for Dr. Brandner.

“I’ve had more and more people locally coming up to me telling me, we’re putting mortgages on our house, maxing out credit cards, taking out loans—just to start a family,” she says. “People have told me, ‘You’re giving me a platform to share my story.’ Finally, their voices are being heard.”

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