Vasectomies Easier To Take During March Madness, Ads Promise : Shots - Health News Some urologists use March Madness as an opportunity to market vasectomy services, offering men the excuse to sit on the sofa for three days to watch college basketball while they recover.
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March Madness Vasectomies Encourage Guys To Take One For The Team

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March Madness Vasectomies Encourage Guys To Take One For The Team

March Madness Vasectomies Encourage Guys To Take One For The Team

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

March Madness, a college basketball tournament, is primetime for marketing to men - trucks, beer, pizza and vasectomies. From KQED in San Francisco, April Dembosky has the story.

APRIL DEMBOSKY, BYLINE: About eight years ago, a urology clinic in Oregon ran a promotion touting the benefits of scheduling a vasectomy in March.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You go in for a little snip, snip and come out with doctor's orders to sit back and watch nonstop basketball.

DEMBOSKY: Lots of copycats followed. Now, a sports radio show in D.C. has an annual Vasectomy Madness contest.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: 106.7 The Fan.

DEMBOSKY: The prize? A free vasectomy.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: All right. Let's bring in our next contestant. Believe it's Abe (ph) from Warrenton, Va.

DEMBOSKY: Three guys come on the air to make their case for getting snipped. And listeners vote on their favorite. The gentlemen's agreement here is first names only. There's Abe.

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ABE: I've got three kids right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: OK.

ABE: Another one - surprise - due in July.

DEMBOSKY: There's Mike (ph), also has four kids.

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MIKE: My wife and I have had enough. We need help to stop the flow.

DEMBOSKY: And there's Charles.

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CHARLES: Four kids, three different women.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Oh.

DEMBOSKY: A lot of men might say it takes a creative deal like this to let a doctor take a scalpel to their nether regions. Vasectomy rates are low. About 5 percent of men in the U.S. have had one for birth control. And that's compared to 20 percent of women who've had a sterilization procedure, even though women's surgery is more invasive and more expensive.

HEATHER: Thank you for calling the Turek clinic. This is Heather (ph) speaking.

DEMBOSKY: Dr. Paul Turek has a urology clinic in San Francisco. He sees an uptick in vasectomy visits during March Madness. He's also noticed more guys coming in together.

PAUL TUREK: So one group came in from a tech company in a limousine.

DEMBOSKY: Last year, five old college buddies scheduled a reunion in March. They live all over the U.S. now. And one of them had this great idea - a group vasectomy.

TUREK: So I gave them a deal. I closed the doors. We had sports TV on. They were having fun.

DEMBOSKY: Fist bumps, high fives as each guy returned to the waiting room. Then they hobbled back to their hotel to make bets and yell at the TV. What was interesting to Dr. Turek was the guys on this bro weekend recovered faster than his typical patient.

TUREK: They had no complaints. They took fewer pain pills. It was the best anesthesia having their buddies with them.

DEMBOSKY: Turek gives all his vasectomy patients a certificate of honor...

TUREK: That says for uncommon bravery and meritorious performance because it is taking one hit to the jewels.

DEMBOSKY: There is another theory about why vasectomies aren't more popular - the cost. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover contraceptives without charging out-of-pocket costs but vasectomy wasn't included. That's because under the rule, birth control was considered a women's health service.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Would your insurance cover this if you did not win the contest?

DEMBOSKY: Here's Charles from the free vasectomy contest.

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CHARLES: No. They'd cover a portion. But I still have to pay my deductible which is a thousand bucks.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Which is high.

DEMBOSKY: Twelve thousand people signed a petition last year asking federal regulators to cover vasectomies without cost sharing. But when the Trump administration took over, advocates were basically told to stop trying. Now they worry Trump's new health officials will get rid of the contraceptive mandate altogether, even for women.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The winner is...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Drum roll.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMROLL)

DEMBOSKY: So for now, that leaves guys like Charles, Mike and Abe vying for a free March Madness vasectomy.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: A stunning upset - Abe.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Abe.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Honest Abe.

DEMBOSKY: His free vasectomy, by the way, comes with a catch. Abe has to let one of the sportscasters come to his appointment to broadcast a play-by-play. For NPR News, I'm April Dembosky.

MCEVERS: This story's part of a reporting partnership with NPR, KQED and Kaiser Health News.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRANCIS BEBEY SONG, "TIERS MONDE")

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