Difficulties in accessing assisted reproduction and fertility treatments in Brazil

Posted December 1st, 2021

A study conducted by the INCT Hormona team from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) addressed the difficulties faced by the Brazilian population in accessing assisted reproduction and fertility preservation treatments. The study, titled “Restricted access to assisted reproductive technology and fertility preservation: legal and ethical issues,” evaluated possible obstacles and, according to the team’s general coordinator, Prof. Dr. Fernando Marcos dos Reis, reviewed the constitutional principles, laws, regulations, resolutions, and ethical aspects related to the subject. Social indicators and legislative issues that may hinder universal access to these services were considered.

According to the expert, the research shows that the major obstacle is not related to the Brazilian Federal Constitution or current laws, but rather lies in the fact that health authorities see infertility as a minor problem, as it does not threaten survival. “As a consequence, there are very few public services that offer infertility treatments for free, with long waiting lists and no specific funding from the Brazilian Unified Health System (SUS), meaning that the SUS does not hire or pay institutions to provide assisted reproduction treatments,” explains Dr. Reis.

The professor mentions that, in addition to the SUS’ omission, another problem that hinders access is related to the National Regulatory Agency for Private Health Insurance and Plans (ANS), which regulates health plans. “The ANS does not require private health insurance to cover infertility treatments,” he warns. “Thus, as a rule, Brazilians have to pay in full for a treatment that is costly in comparison to the country’s average income,” he states.

Despite the difficulties, Dr. Reis highlights that the experience in other countries has shown that helping couples who want to have children but suffer from infertility may be a good long-term investment for the country, considering the social and productivity benefits and the income generated by future citizens born from these treatments. “Besides, this would be the fairest measure, given that other less common diseases are covered by the SUS and health plans,” he explains.

The article was derived from lawyer Brenda Oliveira’s master’s thesis, developed in the Post-Graduate Program in Women’s Health, School of Medicine, UFMG. The article is available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34332903/