Tara Brandner spent three years struggling with infertility, including a miscarriage.
Through her heartbreak and triumph, Brandner realized North Dakota did not offer services and support for people struggling with infertility.
“After I was sitting with our newborn son, shortly after having him, I realized what we had been through, financially, emotionally, physically, and the lack of resources and support- and just having that community connection of somebody else going through it, it was right then and there that it hit me: what can I do?”
Brandner is a nurse practitioner and is inherently drawn to helping others.
She founded Everlasting Hope; a forum for people to share their experiences and resources, raise awareness and build momentum toward legislative change. Currently, North Dakota does not offer infertility coverage.
“I did bring legislation forward for the 2021 legislative session which is House Bill 1147, and that would have provided access for infertility care and infertility preservation.”
The bill did not pass, and for Brandner that isn’t good enough. Statistics show one in six people have struggled with infertility, and cost is the number one barrier.
“They’re going into credit card debt, they’re taking loans out on their homes, they’re selling vehicles, they’re downsizing their homes, they’re asking money from their family members. We have patients that have maxed over $200,000 dollars just to cover a medically diagnosed disease,” explained Brandner.
Brandner vows to continue bringing forward a bill every session until it passes. In the meantime, Everlasting Hope is holding focus groups, educating legislators, and talking with insurance companies and small businesses.
Cassie Sjostrom is a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit of a major hospital in Bismarck. Her employer does not offer infertility coverage.
“We went through three rounds of inter-utero insemination and then a round of IVFs. In total we spent about 30,000 dollars on treatment and only $800 dollars was covered by our insurance plan,” explained Sjostrom.
Brandner is advocating for employees by presenting add-on coverage packages to businesses that employees could choose. On top of the monetary costs, Brandner is there to help people with the emotional toll.
“Tara is helping to create an environment where it’s not you fault, this is something that a lot of people are going through. You’re not alone. How you can reach out to each other and maybe form networks. To create that environment that this is not just something that is falling soley on you and your family’s shoulders,” said Sjostrom.
“How many in their office alone with 1 in 6 being the statistic are actually impacted by this. It’s staggering. And we also know that these employees are not going to be comfortable in saying hey can we look at changing insurance benefits because we already know 61% are not sharing with their closest friends and family members that they have this disease,” explained Brandner.
Brandner says her biggest inspiration to keep going in the face of adversity is looking at her three-year-old son. Brandner says everyone should be afforded the opportunity, should they choose, to have the blessing and joy in life of having a child.
If you or someone you know is struggling with infertility, you can go to the Everlasting Hope website to see the resources and support they offer. You can also learn more about advocacy and the campaign to pass legislation to expand coverage for infertility care and fertility-preservation in North Dakota.