Freeze sperm cells: Health insurance companies do not pay

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Freeze sperm cells for artificial insemination: health insurance companies do not pay.
When there is a risk of infertility, men can freeze and store their sperm cells in order to fulfill their desire to have children later. However, those affected should not expect their health insurance to cover the costs. Because, as the Federal Social Court (BSG) in Kassel has now decided, insurance companies are generally not obliged to share in the costs involved.

Cryopreservation is "personal responsibility of the insured"At the beginning of the year, the BSG had ruled (file number: B 1 KR 10/09 R) that ovarian tissue should be removed from women before cancer therapy and frozen, in order to later restore the ability to conceive through reimplantation, which health insurance companies are obliged to pay for. However, this does not apply to men, according to the current judgment of the BSG, because the freezing and storage of sperm cells, the so-called cryopreservation, is basically the "personal responsibility of the insured" (Az .: B 1 KR 26/09 R).

Infertility due to chemotherapy and radiation therapy In the case in question, a 42-year-old man from Koblenz who had been diagnosed with rectal cancer (colon cancer) had accepted the advice of his doctor and had his sperm cells cryopreserved due to the infertility threatened by chemotherapy and radiation therapy . Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can lead to sperm death or even azoospermia (complete absence of sperm cells in the ejaculate). The result: infertility (infertility). It is difficult to say how big the risk of infertility, for example, through chemotherapy is. Experts speak of 20 - 50 percent. The cytostatics used for chemotherapy pose a high risk of damage to the sperm cells, because most substances interfere directly with cell division. Not only tumor cells, but also other tissue, in particular based on rapid cell division, is damaged. In men, the sperm cells are often affected. The risk is particularly high when using so-called alkylating substances, the platinum compounds and the frequently used method of combination chemotherapy.

Cryopreservation to save family planning Cryopreservation is a process for storing cells by freezing them in liquid nitrogen. The biological system is put into the physical state of a solid body and the vitality of the cells can be maintained almost indefinitely. After thawing, the cells can resume their normal physiological processes at any time. In this way, men can have their sperm cells stored so that they can still fulfill their desire to have children even after chemotherapy, for example.

Health insurance does not cover costs However, the costs for freezing and storing the sperm in a so-called cryobank are quite high and the plaintiff wanted the reimbursement to be from his health insurance company, the Bamer GEK. This refused to cover the costs of EUR 687.25 for the first twelve months of cryopreservation. Therefore, after having lost the process at various previous instances, the person concerned moved to the BSG in Kassel. But the judges did not want to follow his argument here either.

Lawyer sees unequal treatment of men and women "His bad luck is that he has to store his genetic material outside the body," commented the man's lawyer on the BSG's current judgment. Because for him it makes no difference whether a woman takes ovarian tissue and freezes it before cancer therapy or whether a man cryopreserves his sperm cells. However, the judges at the BSG see it differently, because the statutory health insurance only has to pay for concrete artificial insemination and for treatments that make pregnancy possible again naturally. Both are not available in the case of the precautionary visit to the sperm bank, which has now been dealt with, because there is no specific date for artificial insemination and the restoration of natural fertility is also not possible, according to the Senate ruling. (fp, 09/30/2010)

Also read:
Health insurance companies do not pay for sperm banks

Photo credit: Johannes Höntsch /

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