IVF costs add up quickly. Just one cycle can cost anywhere from $10,000 up to $25,000, depending on what specific IVF technologies you need. One study found that the average couple spent $19,000 in out-of-pocket expenses IVF. For each additional cycle, their out-of-pocket expenses went up an average of $7,000.
Considering that some couples may need up to three IVF cycles to get pregnant, plus the unfortunate fact that even high-tech IVF is no guarantee -- it’s enough to make your head spin.
How can you afford costs like these?
Before you walk away from IVF, consider these seven tips for making the costs slightly more affordable.
Read Your Insurance Plan Very Carefully
You may not realize that you are eligible for at least partial coverage of the cost for infertility treatments. Most insurance companies are not interested in making this information clear.
Don’t assume insurance won’t cover you. While most fertility doctors and clinics don’t take insurance, that shouldn’t keep you from applying for reimbursement yourself. Even if IVF itself isn’t cover, certain aspects of your treatment may be.
Read your policy carefully – yes, even all that small print no one ever bothers to read. Pay close attention to any limits of coverage requirements, so you can do your best to meet their rules.
Once you’ve read your policy all the way through, call the company directly to ask more questions. If they deny that infertility treatments are covered, but you read in your policy that they are -- well, now you’re ready to argue.
Use Your Flexible-Spending Account or Health Savings Plan
Flexible-spending accounts are an employee benefit, offered by some companies, that allow you to set aside part of your pre-taxed income for special designated uses. (Often, medical expenses that are not covered by insurance.)
Health savings plans, or HSAs, are another way to set aside pre-taxed income for medical expenses. You may have one if you’re signed up for a high deductible insurance plan.
One of the big differences between an FSA and an HSA is that funds put into an FSA can’t be carried over from year to year. If you don’t use the funds, you lose them.
With an HSA, the funds do carry over. If you’ve been carrying funds over for awhile, you may have a good amount of cash to put towards IVF.
There may be limits on what you kinds of medical treatments can be paid for with an FSA or HSA, but fertility treatments are usually included. Talk to your employer to find out more.
Price Shop and Negotiate
Yes, you should look at more than success rates when choosing a fertility clinic. Ideally, you want a fertility clinic that can give you the treatment you need, at a cost you can afford.
Don’t be afraid to call up other clinics and find out what they can offer you. It’s natural to feel loyal to the doctor you’ve seen so far, but you need to put your family’s financial health first.
When comparing prices, be sure to ask clinics what is included and what’s not. One clinic may seem to have a higher fee for IVF, but if they are including the cost of ultrasounds and blood work, and the other isn’t, then you’re not comparing apples to oranges.
You can also try negotiating with a clinic. If you get a better price from another clinic, but prefer the more expensive one, you can try to see if the clinic you want will come down on the price.
Another cost factor to consider is travel expenses. A clinic may have great prices, but the cost of traveling there and back, and lost time at work, can easily negate the advantages.
Save Money When Buying Fertility Drugs
Fertility drugs make up a huge percentage of overall IVF costs. So it’s good to know you may be able to get discounts or better prices if you do a little research first.
Purchasing your fertility drugs from a specialty pharmacy is an option. DesignRx® will help negotiate the best price for you, if you’re a member. Membership is free.
Another way to save money on fertility drugs is to look into discount programs and mail-in-refund programs, offered by some pharmaceutical companies.
EMD Serono – maker of Gonal-F – offers a few programs to help you save on fertility drug costs. Some programs are for self-pay patients, while others can be used along with insurance. Be sure to apply to the program before you need to purchase the medications.
Consider Shared Risk or IVF Refund Programs
Choosing a shared-risk or refund IVF program may help you recoup your costs, if treatments aren’t successful.
This is basically how it works: you pay upfront for multiple IVF treatments, the average being three cycles, but they can be more or less than this. Then, the clinic or shared-risk program promises to refund all or part of the money if you do not have a successful IVF cycle within the number of cycles you paid for upfront.
These programs frequently cost more per cycle than you’d pay without the refund guarantee, but knowing you’ll get the money back if things don’t work out can be comforting. Also, if treatments fail, you’ll also be able to take some of those funds to put towards an adoption or further treatments, if you want.
Ask for the Cash You Need
No one likes to ask for cash. But if you can stomach it, there are people out there who can help.
If you prefer to keep things non-personal, you can try applying for fertility grants. They rarely cover all the costs, and the application fees can be expensive, but it’s an option to consider.
Another possibility is asking your friends, family, and social connections. Crowdfunding – essentially getting funding from “the crowd” – can help you raise some or even all the money you need for IVF.
Crowdfunding isn’t for everyone, and it does require that you already have a wide social network. Good marketing skills help, too.
- Is Crowdfunding IVF For You?
- Crowdfunding IVF or Adoption: The Basics
- Tips for Successful Crowdfunding of IVF or Adoption
Borrow the Cash You Need
Just about every IVF patient needs to borrow some money to pay for treatments.
Your borrowing options go beyond credit cards. You may consider dipping into retirement funds, taking out a home equity loan, taking out a medical loan, or even asking mom or dad for the cash.
Every option has its pros and cons, so consider carefully.
- 7 Borrowing Options to Pay for Fertility Treatment
- 5 Things to Consider Before Borrowing From Family for IVF
Also be sure you have a pay-back plan for any cash you borrow. The last thing you want is to lose your car or your house just after you have a baby.
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Attain® IVF Program. IntegraMed®. Accessed February 3, 2011. http://attainfertility.com/article/ivf-costs
Discounted Medication Programs. Shady Grove Fertility. Accessed March 5, 2014. http://www.shadygrovefertility.com/discounted-medication-programs.
The Costs of Infertility Treatment. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. Accessed February 3, 2008. http://www.resolve.org/family-building-options/insurance_coverage/the-costs-of-infertility-treatment.html
Wu AK, Odisho AY, Washington SL 3rd, Katz PP, Smith JF. “Out-of-Pocket Fertility Patient Expense: Data from a Multicenter Prospective Infertility Cohort.” J Urol. 2013 Sep 7. pii: S0022-5347(13)05330-5. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2013.08.083. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.jurology.com/article/S0022-5347%2813%2905330-5/abstract