Rising Costs of Infertility Treatments

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IVF Treatment

Couples undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) can expect to pay around $5,338 in out-of-pocket expenses, according to a new study.

Dr. James Smith, director of male reproductive health at the University of California, San Francisco and his colleagues interviewed 332 couples attending one of eight fertility clinics for their first evaluation.

They gave each couple a diary to record all the treatment-related expenses. After a year, they then interviewed the couples three more times about the expenses, including money spent on clinic visits and procedures, medications and miscellaneous items such as travel and parking.

Couples had paid an average out-of-pocket cost of fertility treatments of $5,338. That number varied depending on what type of treatment they received – from $595 for basic, one-time procedures such as uterine fibroid removal or counseling about timing sex to $19,234 for IVF, the technique used by a majority of couples.

The researchers also recorded that expenses were much higher for those have to undergo more treatment cycles since they had a harder time getting pregnant.

According to Single Mothers by Choice, a New York-based organization founded to support women who are single moms by choice, 20 percent of its members choose to adopt. But that’s not the cheap way either. The average cost of a U.S. adoption is about $30,000, and international adoption can be even more, and in some countries they don’t allow single-parent adoption.

About 60 percent of SMC’s members (roughly 30,000 since 1981) have chosen to conceive a child through insemination by a sperm donor, says the organization’s president and founder Jane Mattes.

Donor insemination is often less than $1,000 if it works the first time, but it’s not always that simple. Some women may need to move onto more aggressive treatment like IVF, and like stated above, insurance doesn’t always cover.

Alan Penzias, a reproductive endocrinologist and medical director of Boston IVF, says the typical single woman who seeks fertility treatments is usually between 37 and 39 and usually requires a few cycles of IUI to get pregnant. Older women might need IVF because they have fewer eggs.

“Most of the time, these are women who are healthy and who have used contraception in previous relationships, so it’s typically an unmedicated IUI,” says Penzias, who estimates that he’s seen a 10 percent increase in the number of single women who want to conceive a child on their own over the last couple of years. “For someone 37 or younger with regular cycles and without a past history of conditions that could compromise the fallopian tubes, we check ovarian reserve and if the results are O.K., we might perform three to four IUI cycles before doing additional tests. For someone who’s older, the overall timeline of testing and treatment is accelerated.”

However, there was no clear difference in out-of-pocket expenses based on whether couples or single women reported having insurance coverage for fertility care, according to findings published in The Journal of Urology.

“Usually insurance companies will cover things like labs, the basic diagnostic testing,” Smith told Reuters. “But the expensive items, like in vitro fertilization, that’s much less well covered.”

Private health insurers are to meet a national infertility support group in coming weeks to discuss the possibility of offering cover to policyholders seeking costly IVF treatments.

The planned meeting confirmed by Helen Browne, co-founder of the National Infertility Support and Information Group, at the group’s national conference in Limerick at the weekend says, “Should private health insurers cover it? Of course they should. They’ve been in touch with us, so were hoping to meet with them and to see [what can be done].”

“It’s just an initial meeting, they just want to know what we are about, what we are doing, our membership, and just to get a feel to see what we are about. I would be too afraid to prejudge it. We are looking forward to it.”

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