The Wall Street Journal is reporting on a new niche for lenders--fertility treatments including in vitro fertilization. So-called "fertility finance" companies are increasingly reaching out to women who are facing the expensive and often long road of medical fertility interventions, offering loans to cover the costs and enable women to start treatment before saving up all the money they will need. Critics say the companies are taking advantage, offering unreasonably high interest rates--as high as 22 percent.
At a time when many traditional lenders are struggling, companies that join forces with doctors to make loans for in vitro fertilization, egg harvesting and other fertility treatments say their business is thriving.
One reason: Fertility-finance companies are getting a boost from the banking industry's retrenchment. For example, credit has become tight for home-equity loans and credit cards, two ways couples often have paid for fertility treatments that often top $20,000. Mike Gilroy, Springstone's president, says business is robust because "if the time is right" to have a baby, "people want loans even in a sluggish economy."
Amid a struggling economy, companies in the business predict that lending will grow this year as demand swells from couples desperate to have a baby but unable to afford fertility procedures on their own.
Despite the demand from would-be parents, the loans have generated criticism from some doctors, concerned that they take advantage of couples' desire to have a baby at any cost. Some doctors won't offer the loans. Others worry that doctors who invest their own money in fertility-finance companies will push the loans on patients.
Image: Couple signing papers, via Shutterstock.