The cost of surrogacy and insurance denials push gay couples to crowdfund children

Tyler Le/Insider

  • Insider spoke to several same-sex couples using GoFundMe to afford surrogacy.
  • Heteronormative definitions of infertility mean that gay couples are often excluded from undercover IVF.
  • LGBTQ advocates are now pushing for a more inclusive definition to add to social infertility.

Seven months ago, Noah and Tyler Tyner-Dernulc started a GoFundMe. So far, she\’s raised just $190, a small dent on the $140,750 they need to raise to have biological children.

If they were a straight couple it wouldn\’t be as expensive, or as complicated, but with their health insurance provider offering no help, they have few other options.

The fact that Tyler is serving in the US military makes the lack of help from TRICARE, an insurance-like benefit plan used for military members and their families, an even harder pill to swallow.

\”You\’d think that\’s the least they could do,\” Noah told Insider.

Noah Tyner-Dernulc, left, and Tyler Tyner-Dernulc, right, in a vacation photo.
Noah Tyner-Dernulc/Insider

While some US health insurance plans provide limited coverage for infertility treatments to heterosexual couples in the US, coverage for same-sex couples is much more difficult to obtain.

\”Many insurance policies define infertility as the inability to conceive after a certain period of unprotected sex,\” Betsy Campbell, Chief Engagement Officer of Resolve: The National Infertility Association, told Insider.

“Under this definition, coverage for infertility diagnosis and treatment is limited to heterosexual couples,” she said, adding, “In other words, these policies discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community and create an unfair financial burden on gay couples and lesbians\”.

\”It\’s Kind of a Punch to the Stomach\”

Noah Tyner-Dernulc, 25, told Insider the couple were disappointed after a TRICARE employee told him they would be denied coverage for any assisted reproductive services.

Instead, they were told they would have to pay for all the blood tests, semen analysis and other medical tests they would have to have to go ahead with IVF, she said. That would set them back $10,000, a fraction of the total cost, but an additional financial hurdle that heterosexual couples with infertility issues shouldn\’t have considered.

TRICARE\’s website says it may cover some types of assisted reproductive services, but only when \”medically necessary\” and combined with \”coital.\”

These definitions, which appear to refer to heterosexual sex, automatically exclude same-sex male couples, who cannot reproduce naturally and therefore are not considered medically sterile, Noah said.

\”It\’s kind of a punch in the gut,\” he added. \”It just makes you feel defeated.\”

TRICARE did not respond to many of Insider\’s requests for comment.

\”It will take years\”

Tyner-Dernulc\’s experience has left them frustrated with the system and they are not alone.

Faced with limited assistance from insurers, many gay couples have turned to crowdfunding platforms as a means of reducing the financial burden of becoming parents, albeit with limited success.

Danila Khazanov, left, and Tom Khazanov, right, pose for a selfie.
Tom Khazanov/Insider

Tom Khazanov, a 28-year-old PhD student. student at Cornell University, and her husband have so far raised just $1,400 of their stated goal of $50,000.

To cover the estimated costs of surrogacy, which range from $150,000 to $200,000, they plan to combine the funds raised with loans and money they are able to save.

\”It\’s going to be years,\” she told Insider, adding that she tries not to dwell on it because it\’s so upsetting.

Khazanov shared GoFundMe on his Instagram account and asked friends to contribute for birthdays and other special occasions.

\”I\’d say for the number of followers I have on my Instagram page, it\’s been pretty good,\” she added.

\”Building our family is what will bankrupt us\”

Philip Dobaj, a 30-year-old computer security engineer, and Steve Dobaj, a 38-year-old HR worker for a major sportswear brand, are trying to use their marriage to achieve their goal of having a child.

The couple made a heartfelt appeal to the guests; instead of traditional gifts, they want contributions to their family\’s future. But so far, two months into the campaign, the couple has raised just $100.

Crowdfunding is the \”last resort\” to fulfill their dream of having a baby, Philip said, adding that they have exhausted all other financial options.

Philip and Steve Dobaj, portrayed together with two dogs, in a snowy landscape.
Philip and Steve Dobaj/Insider

Their insurance won\’t cover any part of the surrogacy process or any aspect of IVF, they said, leaving them with a huge upfront expense that could reach as much as $250,000.

Steve Dobaj said that even if they were to deplete their savings, they could realistically only cover about 10-15% of the total cost. They have also considered draining their retirement accounts.

They also fear that depleting their savings would do a child a disservice by \”zeroing our finances\” before they\’re even born.

“Building our family is what will bankrupt us, or at least look like it will bankrupt us,” Philip said.

One last lifeline on offer

Joseph Alcantara, who works in marketing, and her husband Ryan Rebeca, a nurse, said they are working tirelessly to achieve their dream of having a child without falling into financial ruin.

They said their health insurance provider also denied them any coverage for IVF procedures, citing a lack of an infertility diagnosis.

While costs of surrogacy procedures have skyrocketed to around $285,000, their GoFundMe has raised just $855.

The couple has also scoured financial institutions for loans with affordable interest rates, while clinging to the hope that a \”miracle\” will somehow help them reach their crowdfunding goal, Alcantara said.

But the prospects are bleak. \”We can\’t just churn out $285,000,\” she said. \”The only other way we could do it would be to win the lottery.\”

Joseph Alcantara, left, and Ryan Rebeca, right, with their dog.
Giuseppe Alcantara/Insider

Despite their financial struggles, the couple said they have been \”blessed\” with an opportunity that could help them bridge the gap.

Men Having Babies, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting gay intended parents, has accepted Alcantara and Rebeca into the Phase I Gay Parent Assistance Program.

In this way, the couple will benefit from substantial discounts ranging from 15% to 50% on vital services such as IVF, surrogacy, egg donation and legal assistance.

Ron Poole-Dayan, the nonprofit\’s executive director, describes the program as a life-changing \”booster\” that serves to dismantle the financial barriers that often keep gay couples from pursuing parenthood.

The organization accepts more than 300 people each year, with a select number of low-income couples and individuals qualifying for the more generous Stage II program, which pairs them with free services and direct care grants.

It is aimed at prospective parents who would \”never\” otherwise become parents without financial support, Poole-Dayan said, adding that more than 70 babies have been born thanks to Phase II funding.

The inspiration behind Men Having Babies comes from Ron Poole-Dayan\’s journey, during which he claimed that he and his husband were \”screwed\” by insurance companies and rejected by several infertility charities.

\”We weren\’t considered sterile by the insurance industry, by our employers, by society,\” he said during an interview with Insider.

Poole-Dayan is now advocating adding a new definition of infertility: \”social infertility.\”

This redefined concept aims to recognize the unique challenges faced by cisgender and male same-sex couples, with the goal of putting them on par with clinically infertile heterosexual couples.

The legal battle to cover the costs of in vitro fertilization for gay couples

A photograph of Corey Briskin, left, and Nicholas Maggipinto, right.
Corey Briskin and Nicholas Maggipinto/Insider

The fight to redefine infertility is at the heart of why Corey Briskin and Nicholas Maggipinto, both attorneys, decided to take action against New York City by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

After their marriage in 2016, Briskin became an assistant district attorney.

But when they began exploring the possibility of starting a family, Briskin discovered that the city\’s health plan offered some IVF-related benefits, including lab tests and procedures, as well as up to three IVF cycles, but only for the couples classified as sterile.

The couple argue that the language in their policy makes it impossible for them to ever be considered infertile, and thus prevents them from receiving IVF coverage, which they say is ultimately discriminatory.

New York City did not respond to Insider\’s request for comment.

Their legal representative, civil rights attorney Peter Romer-Friedman, told Insider: \”Corey and Nicholas are in a similar position with people who need these same services, but are denied them because of their gender and their sexual orientation\”.

The lack of coverage means that, for now, Briskin and Maggipinto are paying for IVF entirely out of pocket, and also had to give up an egg donor they loved because her low egg yield likely required multiple fertilization cycles. in vitro.

\”It was a very difficult decision and it was purely financial,\” Briskin said.

Tyler Tyner-Dernulc, left, and Noah Tyner-Dernulc, right, in a vacation photo.
Noah Tyner-Dernulc/Insider

Ignoring the backlash

For Noah Tyner-Dernulc, the overwhelming desire for a child outweighs everything else, including the potential for social media abuse due to the GoFundMe campaign and possible scrutiny from more socially conservative military couples.

Still, \”it\’s hard to necessarily describe the feeling of not being able to easily have your own children naturally,\” she said, adding that if others were able to go through this process, same-sex or otherwise, they would understand the mental toll that can request . And \”I think things would change,\” she said.

Still, the couple is laser-focused on making their dream come true, even if it means counting every single donation dollar.

In Noah\’s words, \”When we first hold our child, nothing anyone has said about how we got to that point is going to matter.\”

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