As you know, we went to our first RE appointment this past week. Prior to doing so, I had a couple questions in regards to insurance and decided to call Fertility Lifelines (see sidebar) back, since they were so helpful the first time. I spoke with Barb again, the same person I worked with before, who helped me understand a little more about infertility states and how the coverage works. She confirmed the point about if a company is self-insured they don't have to offer infertility coverage. She also told me that it is possible that a company would be located in an infertility state, not self-insure, but still not have coverage simply because the state they purchased the policy from was somewhere other than that state (and they probably aren't an infertility state). As you can see, it seems there are several loop holes that companies might be taking advantage of. If we were to consider moving, the only way we would know for certain if a new employer offered coverage was to ask for a policy book during or after the interview. I also asked Barb if we went to an RE now, and tried to switch insurances in the next year (or after), would we likely be turned down or have our infertility issues labeled as "pre-existing". She said that as long as my doctors are continuing to bill my care as something other than an infertility diagnosis, I wouldn't. However, once that changes (also when our current insurance won't cover any procedures), we would be at the mercy of any stipulations. She said they (new insurance companies) typically don't refuse you, but you would be held to any pre-existing clause that exists, which is usually a timeframe of anywhere from six months to a year from the coverage start date. That I pretty much expected.
Because Fertility Lifelines is a subset of the Gonal-F injectable medications, she also updated me on the two savings plans they have going right now. One is their FertilityAssist2, where you can save up to $500 on your second round of Gonal-F shots, and the other is a word-of-mouth program called Compassionate Care that is income based and you can only apply once in your lifetime. However, if you are accepted into the program, you get 1 free cycle of shots (Both Gonal-F and Ovidrel which are needed to stimulate follicles - more info here) for use in either an IUI or IVF cycle and you must have a start date for these cycles from your doctor at the time of applying. To apply, they need a 1040, last two pay stubs and a copy of the front of your insurance card. She said it typically takes about 2 weeks to know if you are accepted (faster if you have a private fax to correspond with). I think I got most of that correct from talking with her, but if you're interested you'd want to call them yourself for full details.
Ok, so with that information, we headed to our first appointment with the Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE), Dr. Peter Ahlering (pictured at left) with the SHER Institutes for Reproductive Medicine, about 25 minutes from home. Our appointment was at 9am and I woke up with a pretty decent head cold. I had taken Nyquil before bed and was still loopy when I woke, so that whole morning was a bit of a haze. The good thing is that it probably kept me from being so nervous!
Anyway, I filled out the patient questionnaire on the way. When we arrived the staff was very pleasant and check-in was a breeze. We waited only about 8 minutes or so and was taken to Dr. Ahlering's office for about an hour long discussion. He was very nice and took the time to not only read through the questionnaire we'd filled out, but also asked a good deal about what we'd done thus far in TTC and made sure to educate us a little on how an ideal cycle would work. While I new most of that, it was good that he didn't want to assume we new everything. The two things he spent the most time talking about with regards to our situation was the fact that I'm not ovulating and that he was concerned my remaining tube might be damaged from my past surgery. He said the ovulation issue is pretty easy to overcome - I'm still young and with the right does of stimulation (shots), he is confident he can get me to ovulate. The tube issue, however, is something that could really be a determining factor as to what we do going forward. He said he will more than likely want to do a laparoscopy, which will allow him to get a good look at how the tube might be functioning. I honestly wasn't expecting him to say that - I was thinking he'd want to do an HSG, however, since that would only tell us if it's open (not if it's damaged), this totally makes sense. He said they usually do the surgery on a Friday and generally people are back up and running by the following Monday, so hopefully it wouldn't be too bad. I'm expecting that the surgery will be sometime the first, second or third week in January.
Last week, on Christmas Eve actually, I went in for new CD3 bloodwork - and LOTS of it... almost a pint! Let's just say I almost passed out and threw up they took so much blood! At least it's over with and I should get my results back this next week. Also this next week, (either Tues or Wed afternoon), we go in for a semen analysis (MSA & SDI - DNA testing), my fluid ultrasound (FUS) which is also known as a Sonohysterogram, my antral (AFC) follicle count via transvaginal ultrasound and for a financial consultation. They think that my lap will be covered by insurance, but we need to look into this more. IF the SA comes out normal and my lap looks good, he said we have a good shot at being successful with doing shots and IUI, especially since we're still young. IF there is a major problem with either the SA or my tube is damaged, our only real chance at pregnancy will be to do IVF. Generally speaking, he said that it would be $1,500 to $1,700 to do shots and IUI and $9,000 to 10,000 to do IVF - each of those is per cycle and the general rule of thumb is to expect to be in either one of those for 3-4 rounds before knowing if it will work or not.
We still have a lot of questions (many of which will hopefully be answered next week), but I can't begin to tell you how much of a sense of relief I feel after talking with him. It was so refreshing to, for once, feel like we're in good hands and that the person helping you actually knows more than you do (what a concept!). I think we probably went at a good time too - we've done just enough for him to know that clomid isn't working for us (he said the signs are pointing to me not reacting to the drug in a positive manor) and are ready to move onto bigger fish. I pray that we can find a way to make this work financially and that mentally I will be able to just turn it over and let God do the rest. Oh yeah, and that my body reacts well to all the poking and examining. I am already a little anxious about giving myself shots in the tummy, but if it helps us get pregnant, I am trusting God will get me through it!
Oh and needless to say, we're not doing another round of clomid - essentially this will pretty much be a cycle off while we do all the tests. And I'm totally fine with that - finally we'll have answers to so many questions and will know where to go from here.
Well, that certainly doesn't cover everything, but it's a start. I'll have to update later about how our holiday went. For now it's off to get showered and then we're headed to one last get-together!