You're at the fertility clinic and your doctor tells you all systems are go for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Great, right? Absolutely! Except for one small matter, that's actually pretty big: how are you going to pay for it?
In the US, there is really no way around it—undergoing IVF can be expensive, especially since relatively few health insurers offer coverage. Based on national averages, a single cycle of IVF runs around $12,000, with many couples requiring 3 to 4 cycles before achieving success.
Once you get over the sticker shock, your clinic will probably discuss payment options, with some fertility doctors steering you towards taking out a "fertility loan," essentially a personal loan to cover treatment costs. Should you go this route? A new article in Forbes magazine reveals that some fertility loans can carry interest rates as high as 22 percent. And it seems that some fertility doctors get financial kickbacks from signing up patients for these loans, a practice that may uncomfortably blur the line between someone concerned about patients' health—and profit.
Not all doctors and clinics benefit from offering loans, of course, and—much like a car loan—you may be able to find a decent APR if you look hard enough. However, since the last thing anyone wants is an avalanche of financial stress on top of the stress that most infertile couples already feel, investigating all your options for financing IVF seems worth the time and effort.
What's available? Check out these alternatives...
- Check state laws: The good news about health insurance and IVF? There are now 15 states with some sort of mandate for insurers to offer infertility coverage. For example, if you live in Connecticut, individual and group insurers are required to provide infertility coverage to individuals under 40 years old and provide up to 2 cycles of IVF. In Arkansas, most insurers are required to cover up to $15,000 of the cost of IVF. However, in states like California, IVF is exempt from coverage, though other aspects of fertility care, including medications, are not. RESOLVE, the national infertility advocacy organization, has a helpful list of state insurance laws on its site.
- Apply for grants: Several infertility non-profits offer "scholarships" and grants to couples who can demonstrate a medical diagnosis of infertility and who are in financial need. One of these, the Tinina Q. Cade Foundation's Family Building Grant, provides up to $10,000 to needy, infertile families to assist with either infertility treatments or fees associated with domestic adoption.
- Consider IVF insurance programs: Could this be the way to greater financial peace of mind? Companies that offer "IVF insurance" offer refunds and credits for unsuccessful treatments—some policies even provide coverage up until a baby is born.
- Think in bulk: Since statistics show that most couples require more than one round of IVF before becoming pregnant, some clinics may bundle together two or three treatments for a price that cuts the cost of each individual treatment. If these extra treatments are not needed, the clinic may refund all or part of the difference.
- Shop around: With so many clinics around, competition may be good for your wallet. If you are honestly trying to decide between two clinics, be up front with each about how cost is factoring into your decision. Remember, everything can be negotiated, even, perhaps, the price of IVF.
- Throw a fundraiser: How do you feel about asking people you know (or don't know) to donate money to your cause? Moms on BabyZone have debated this one before, with the consensus being, if it brings you closer to your goal of having a baby, then maybe it's time to pass the hat.
After all, donations don't come with a 22 percent APR.