Survey: 52% of IVF Candidates Resort to Credit Cards to Pay for Treatment

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that 12% of women aged 15 and 44 years in the U.S. have trouble getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term.

For those who want to become parents, in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment can offer a chance. But with an average cost of $10,000 per cycle plus medications, it’s not cheap. So, we surveyed hundreds of people who plan to use the treatment in the next 12 months to understand how they plan to pay for their treatment.

How much does IVF cost?

“On average, an IVF cycle costs about $10,000 plus the cost of medications,” said Dr. Mark Trolice, M.D., director of The IVF Center. Trolice’s clinic breaks down those costs on its website, something Trolice said is an uncommon practice.

how people are paying for ivf treatment

Image credit: The IVF Center

But just because you pay up doesn’t mean you’ll have a baby. “It’s important that patients aren’t misled into thinking this is a guarantee,” said Trolice.

And the older you are, the higher the chance of failure. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology found the following success rates based on age.

Since success rates can be low, many of the people we surveyed are planning to spend a lot more than $10,000 on their IVF treatment. More than two-thirds plan to spend at least $20,000, and 25% are expecting a bill of $40,000 or more.

While subsequent cycles can improve your chances of a live birth, you might not be able to afford more than one cycle.

Infertility insurance is severely lacking

Nine in 10 Americans consider infertility part of health care, according to Carrot Fertility, a company that offers fertility benefits to employers. But insurance coverage is behind the times.

The Society for Human Resource Management found that only 24% of employer-sponsored health plans cover IVF. And 26% offer other types of infertility treatment. So, it’s surprising that roughly half the people we surveyed said their insurance covers the treatment.

“It’s a shame,” said Trolice. “Why patients have to beg, borrow, and steal for the opportunity to become a parent is a real black eye on this country’s health care system.”

What’s more, the National Conference of State Legislatures lists only 15 states with infertility insurance laws, which might or might not include IVF coverage. Check to see if your state is included.

Some employers are picking up the bill

One-third of the people we surveyed said their employer plans to help pay for their treatment.

Depending on where you live, it can be hard to find an employer that will get you the coverage you need. But FertilityIQ, a website that offers resources and connects patients with fertility doctors, can help you get started.

FertilityIQ lists more than 250 employers that offer IVF coverage in its Family Builder Workplace Index, including private and public companies, universities, nonprofit organizations, and a few city governments.

How one woman paid for IVF treatments without any help

Rebecca Kilduff, a 51-year-old mother who writes about her experience with IVF at Eggcicle, spent roughly $75,000 on treatments, which resulted in a set of twins in 2013 and a third child in 2016.

Instead of relying on debt to finance her treatments, Kilduff eschewed other big expenses to save up. “I didn’t do the big vacations that my girlfriends were doing at the time,” she said. “I had the luxury of a great job and income. But I also made the choice that all the other stuff wasn’t going to be for me.”

Kilduff also looked for different ways to save money along the way. For example, she joined a study that didn’t require her to pay much in the beginning. “If you can get associated with a university or be part of a study, there’s a bunch of things that will get picked up for you from a cost perspective,” she said.

Do some research before agreeing to participate in a study, however. Make sure the institution is reputable and you feel comfortable with the stipulations.

She also used a health savings account (HSA) to save for her treatments. HSA savings grow tax-free as long as you use your withdrawals for eligible medical expenses, including IVF and other fertility treatments.

And when it comes to finding ways to cut costs, Kilduff’s recommendation is simple — just ask. Ask the clinic and join a group of other men and women who are going through the same process and might have cost-cutting tips. “People don’t often ask what they can do [to cut costs],” she said.

7 ways to finance your IVF treatment

“[IVF] is a physical, emotional, and financial investment,” said Trolice. So, it didn’t surprise us to see that 40% of the people we surveyed are stressed about the cost of IVF. And for those who can’t afford IVF at all, it can be heartbreaking.

Most of the people we surveyed plan to tap their savings or use their monthly income to cover some of the costs of their IVF treatment. But some are also looking to family, friends, and other financing options.

Here’s a quick summary of how our survey respondents plan to finance some or all of their IVF treatment.

Now, let’s break down each option and its pros and cons as well as some other alternatives.

1. Credit cards

A little more than half our survey respondents plan to pay for their IVF treatment with credit cards. But putting that amount of money on one or more credit cards might set you up for a tough road ahead.

As of the fourth quarter of 2017, credit cards charge an average interest rate of 14.99%, according to the Federal Reserve. And if you put tens of thousands of dollars on a credit card at once, it could take you years and a lot of interest to pay it off.

Some credit cards offer 0% APR promotions. These promotions can last up to a year and a half, but after that, your remaining balance turns into high-interest debt.

As a result, we recommend credit cards only if you’re using a 0% APR promotion and have the means to pay off the balance before the promotion ends.

2. Personal loans

A quarter of the people we surveyed are considering personal loans to cover the cost of their IVF treatment.

Personal loans can be a good option if you have stellar credit and a decent income. Some personal loan companies offer single-digit interest rates to those who qualify, and some let you see rate offers with just a soft credit check.

So, as you’re considering your financing options, compare a few personal loan companies.

3. 401(k) loan or withdrawal

Another option is to access some of the cash you already have socked away — in retirement. Roughly 1 in 7 people surveyed plan to do so, either by taking out a 401(k) loan or through an early withdrawal from their 401(k) account.

But while borrowing from your future might seem like a safe bet, both options can come with unintended consequences.

For example, taking money out of your 401(k) in the form of a loan means that money is no longer being invested. As a result, you stand to lose potential future earnings. What’s more, if you leave your job for any reason, the loan might become due within 60 days.

If you don’t pay it back in time, the money you borrowed will be subject to income tax and a 10% penalty. Early withdrawals from a 401(k) are also subject to income tax and a 10% penalty.

So, before you choose this option, consider the extra costs.

4. Home equity loans

Of the people we surveyed, 8% plan to borrow using the equity in their home as collateral.

Home equity loans are appealing because their secured nature typically leads to lower interest rates, which is especially beneficial if your credit score isn’t good enough to get the best personal loan rates.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind before taking out a home equity loan, however. For starters, home equity loans sometimes charge high closing costs to process the loan and get approved. That upfront cost might or might not be worth it to you.

Also, because the loan is secured by the equity in your home, you could lose your home to repossession if you default on your payments. So, make sure your finances are stable before you consider this option.

5. Fertility-focused lenders and programs

As we spoke with Trolice, he mentioned a couple of lenders he recommends to his patients who need help financing their IVF treatment.

CapexMD

CapexMD specializes in fertility financing, so it might be easier to get the amount you need than it would be if you were applying for a personal loan or credit card.

As of February 2018, the lender offers interest rates from 7.25% to 12.75%, based on your creditworthiness and loan term. You can choose a repayment term of two, three, four, or five years.

CapexMD charges the following fees:

  • $25 application fee
  • $75 document preparation fee
  • $15 fee for every $1,000 (or a portion) above $5,000, up to a $150 total fee

CareCredit

CareCredit is a credit card that can be used exclusively for medical expenses. If you choose a repayment term of 24 months or less, the card offers 0% financing.

But if you don’t pay off the balance in full by the end of the promotional date, you won’t just owe interest on the remaining balance. Rather, CareCredit will charge you interest from the original purchase date.

You also can opt for a longer repayment term, up to 60 months. But interest rates can be as high as 16.90%, making it no better than a regular credit card.

6. Seek financial assistance

The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination (INCIID) offers a scholarship to eligible candidates in need. Rather than offering cash, however, the organization offers up to $25,000 in donated medical care in the form of IVF treatment.

Check out INCIID’s eligibility requirements to see if you qualify. And check out other infertility grants and scholarships while you’re at it.

If you’re a cancer survivor and your cancer and its treatment affected your fertility, the Livestrong Fertility Program can provide you with information, resources, and financial support.

To learn more, apply online for the Livestrong Fertility Program.

7. Clinic refund programs

“Some clinics offer a refund program that you pay for a certain number of cycles, and if you don’t have a baby, you get your money back,” said Trolice.

He points out, however, that the marketing from these clinics can be misleading. “They are very selective of their patients so the clinic doesn’t lose money,” he added.

So, if you’re considering a clinic that offers a refund program, make sure you’re eligible for it before you start the IVF process.

If IVF doesn’t work

As someone who has experienced infertility with his wife, Trolice knows exactly what his patients are going through.

“It was 10 years of misery on a daily basis, taking care of my patients while they were crying, then going home to my wife crying,” he said.

IVF didn’t work for Trolice and his wife, so they looked at other options before settling on adoption. The couple eventually adopted a total of five children.

Based on our survey, two of the top alternatives to IVF are surrogacy and adoption. But like IVF treatment, these options aren’t cheap.

Surrogacy

A surrogacy pregnancy occurs when a woman becomes pregnant through artificial insemination or the surgical implantation of a fetus. This woman then carries the baby to term on behalf of another woman.

Unfortunately, many hopeful parents aren’t aware of the cost of a surrogacy pregnancy. Of the people we surveyed, 30% expect to pay $40,000 or more. But the actual price tag is between $90,000 and $130,000, according to California-based West Coast Surrogacy.

Those numbers include medical care, screenings, legal fees, and insurance and compensation for the surrogate.

Only 36% of those surveyed expect financial help from their employer. The rest plan to use a mix of savings, monthly income, help from family and friends, and various financing options.

Here’s a breakdown of how people plan to finance at least a portion of their surrogacy pregnancy costs.

Adoption

The cost of adopting a child can vary depending on whether you go through an agency or do an independent adoption. According to American Adoptions, an agency adoption will cost you $39,966, and an independent adoption runs $34,093.

This might be news to some people who are saving up to adopt. Based on our survey, only 40% plan to spend more than $30,000 on their adoption. That said, only 27% are stressed about the cost, compared with 40% who are considering IVF.

Again, couples planning to adopt plan to use their monthly income, savings, and help from family and friends. But many also might consider financing a portion of the costs.

The overwhelming majority consider the costs worth it

Having a baby in the U.S. is expensive, especially if you have problems with infertility. But while the costs of IVF treatment, surrogacy, and adoption are high, the vast majority of survey respondents believe it will be worth it.

If you’re thinking about pursuing one of these options, take a step back and consider how you plan to finance the process. Seek financing options that charge as little interest as possible. And read the fine print to avoid surprises.

As you prepare yourself financially to pay for your IVF treatment, you’ll be in a much better position to bear the cost of raising your child.

Survey methodology: Student Loan Hero conducted three surveys using SurveyMonkey on Feb. 7, 2018. We collected answers from 776 men and women nationally who said they were planning to undergo IVF treatment, use a surrogate, or adopt a baby in the next 12 months.

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