The women look at each other with reassuring smiles before launching into their story.
Their dream is to become parents and have a child of their own.
But while they knew that as a same-sex couple this journey would come with challenges, they didn’t expect to be caught up in a dispute between the government and the private fertility clinic where Sarah is to be inseminated. artificially.
“I feel helpless. I feel like I have no solution.” Sarah said. (CBC has agreed to use pseudonyms for Sarah and her partner Maria because they fear that revealing their true identities will affect their chances of having a baby with the clinic’s help.)
“We come from two big families. We both have siblings. We have friends who are lesbian couples who have had children,” Sarah said. “I think it’s just the greatest gift in life, and having it almost ripped from me is horrible.”
She and Maria, who have been together for years, did their research before starting the insemination process at Clinique Ovo. They said the clinic had a good success rate and they had read positive reviews online before starting the process.
But in November, after the 2020 law of the CAQ government on assisted reproduction came into force, most private fertility clinics suspended in vitro fertilization (IVF) and artificial insemination treatments due to a dispute over fees that the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) was willing to pay for these services.
The clinics successfully negotiated an increase in the fees paid by RAMQ for a series of IVF treatments, from $3,900 to $6,600, and resumed offering IVF.
However, the RAMQ has toed the line on what it is willing to pay for the costs associated with artificial or intrauterine insemination (IUI), which can reach around $800 per cycle.
Under the new law, RAMQ will pay for up to six cycles of IUI treatment.
At least two clinics – Clinique Ovo and Clinique Procrea Fertility in Gatineau – have not taken up the IUI offer, as they have argued that the cost of providing a series of treatments is higher than what the RAMQ is ready to pay.
As a result, some patients were left in the dark: Sarah and her partner had already spent thousands of dollars on tests at the clinic and had to start their first cycle of intrauterine insemination when Clinique Ovo suspended those treatments.
“We ended up in this situation where we were held hostage, where we couldn’t go on,” Maria said. “It created a lot of psychological tension.”
“I don’t think a lot of people talk about it or understand that. But emotionally and psychologically it’s been really difficult for both of us.”
Maria said they could switch clinics, but it’s difficult after having already invested so much money in the process at Clinique Ovo.
‘Disproportionately affects’ lesbians, says LGBT+ advocate
Mona Greenbaum, executive director of the Montreal-based LGBT+ Family Coalition, says her group has received many calls from lesbian couples since private clinics suspended services. She said the dispute over fees was causing undue stress for many people.
“Why didn’t the government negotiate this with the clinics before the law came into effect?” Greenbaum asked.
“Clinics use patients as bargaining tools.”
“The LGBTQ community is in the middle. We are hurt by the government’s lack of action — and the lack of empathy on the clinic side,” Greenbaum said.
The couple say they are doing well.
They don’t want to start all over again, especially since the suspension of IUI services by some private clinics has created long waits in the public sector.
“Why don’t they resume service and retroactively bill the government for discrepancies of all inseminations to find a solution?” Sarah asks.
Clinic and Ministry of Health accuse each other
The clinic says that under RAMQ rules, it is not possible to charge patients the actual cost of its service and wait to be reimbursed by RAMQ later.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Clinique Ovo said the clinic had hoped the issue of IUI fees would be resolved at the same time the private sector reached an agreement on fees for IVF treatments.
“Right now, the Government of Quebec has unilaterally made the decision to charge below-market fees for these treatments and force clinics to operate at low cost,” said Chloe Plenet, spokesperson for Clinique Ovo and The Fertility Partners, the company that owns the clinic.
Discussions between the Federation of Medical Specialists of Quebec (FMSQ), the Regrouping representing obstetricians and gynecologists (AOGQ) and the government are underway in the search for a solution, specifies the clinic.
“We urge the government to immediately open negotiations due to the urgency of the situation and to work quickly towards a lasting solution for the benefit of patients,” Plenet said in the statement.
Marjorie Larouche, spokeswoman for the Department of Health, said the department was disappointed that some clinics had suspended their IUI service, despite the government’s progress in making assisted reproduction more accessible.
“It is important to mention that the choice to offer the services or not to offer the services provided by this program belongs to each private clinic,” she said in a press release.
None of this is helping Sarah and Maria right now, as they wait for a dead end break.
“There were many, many sad nights and tears and we tried to pick ourselves up,” Maria said, “to pursue our dream of having a family.”