More Affordable Fertility Treatments

January 03, 2019
Katherine Flemming

The drugs. The storage fees. The drugs! And the drug plans. Getting pregnant without a little medical intervention is easier than ever—but is it more affordable than ever?

The truth is, it's an expensive feat. Silicon Valley has caught headlines in the past year for offering fertility treatments in their health care plans for employees, whether it's an ovarian reserve assessment (which can set you back a cool $1500) to a cycle or two of IVF (which can be in the neighbourhood of $10,000) and can creep up to $25,000 easily, depending on the therapies required.

 A recent study out of out the UK found that 2/3 of patients feel ripped off by the fertility clinic. The notion of being upsold promise treatments to help increase the probability of a pregnancy was one of the biggest complaints.

When I reached out to a friend about her recent fertility experience, I asked about the sticker shock of paying for the treatment. "I wouldn't say I was shocked — I knew IVF cost anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 (thanks in part to the Friends episode when Phoebe agrees to act as a surrogate for her half-brother and sister-in-law)," says Sarah Marocci (whose name has been changed.)

Because Marocci lives in Ontario, Canada, her first round of IVF was covered under government funding. However, there are limitations with that, too. "Because the program will only let clinics transfer two embryos at a time, it will cover all the transfers you get from one retrieval," says Marocci. "I got three embryos from that round, so I did two transfers that were entirely covered. But the program doesn't cover the fertility drugs, nor did my corporate health plan. I ended up spending almost $4,000 in drugs alone."

One way Marocci mitigated the cost of the drugs was by getting creative and using every last drop of the drugs prescribed to her. "I was on Gonal-F, which is administered in a pen, much like an EPI. Even after you've used the whole thing and the counter is at zero, there's still just a little bit of product at the top. I'd hang on to all my "finished" pens and take them to the clinic. The nurses were kind enough to pull out the remainder and preload a syringe with my designated dosage," says Marocci. "I saved quite a bit that way. I also have a friend who's undergoing fertility treatments and she's a teacher with a dope AF insurance plan that covers her drugs. Anytime she had extras, she'd flip them to me, sometimes free of cost. It was a real wallet saver! (To put it in perspective, she recently gave me 3 Gonal pens of 300IU each, which had been prescribed to her but then she didn't need them. Normally, I would've paid over $1000 for that much medication, but with her plan it came to $62!)."

So for Marocci, while she did save in some cases, she had to foot the bill for her second round of IVF. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't have the wind knocked out of me just a little bit when I paid for my last round."

Here's how five different clinics help cut costs:

1. Startup Future Family recently switched from a small loans to subscriptions, citing customer feedback regarding flexibility in creating tailored packages for their needs. Their Subscription Fertility builds out plans that allow patients to select services—i.e, if you start with egg retrieval but decide to add something later, such as genetic testing, you can roll that into your payment plan.

2. At ReproMed in Toronto, an "all-inclusive package" is available for men whose fertility is at threat (think: radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a selective vasectomy). It includes the initial assessment, one deposit visit, five years of storage for $920 Canadian/$685 U.S.

3. CYN Fertility in Syracuse, NY has become a beacon for those struggling with the burden of starting a family. According to their clinic, they believe reproduction is an undeniable human right. One cycle of IVF under their care is likely to cost under $10,000, less than a 1/3 of the national average (and military vets receive an additional 5% discount).

4. At Extend Fertility, costs for egg freezing are approximately half the national average, as the clinic has found ways to streamline the process. Because egg freezing is all they do, this streamlined approach cuts down on overhead costs and other expenses IVF clinics have.

5. Further abroad, in Greece, at the Genesis Centre for Fertility and Human Pre-Implantation Genetics, patients are offered a money-back guarantee on procedures. According to their website, the founder and scientific director of the clinic is Dr Savvas Koundouros, who claims to have biopsed and diagnosed more than 75,000 to date. 

Costs aside, Marocci is marvelled by modern medicine. "It's incredible to think that had I been trying to conceive 20 or 25 years ago and encountered problems, I likely would have had to make peace with my fate and move on. Modern medicine is pretty wild. I got pregnant with my second transfer and eventually miscarried, but during that brief pregnancy, I kept referring to it as my 'science baby.' Thanks to science, it's still a possibility for a woman in her forties to have a child. And that's pretty awesome."