5 Ways to Pay for IVF When You Think You Can't Afford It
If you started looking into IVF and related fertility treatments and found yourself freaking out about the costs, you're not alone. The average cost of an in vitro fertilization cycle in the United States is $15,000, according to RESOLVE, the national infertility association. Costs for additional services, such as preimplantation genetic testing—which determines how healthy your embryos are—or medications that make IVF happen, can cost an additional $4,000, according to CNY Fertility.
When health insurance plans don't cover infertility treatment (they currently cover it in only 19 states according to RESOLVE), wondering how you'll ever pay for IVF can keep you up at night long before that eventual infant might.
Extra or different health insurance
That was the case for my husband and me. Despite living in a state that mandates health insurance coverage for infertility treatment, the company I worked for when I wanted to have a kid was based elsewhere—and neither my insurance plan nor my husband's covered any of it. And when it became clear that we would need to pursue treatment to conceive, we sat down with the financial office of our local fertility clinic and asked about our options.
Ultimately, we paid for an additional insurance plan that I qualified for because I did a lot of freelance side hustles in addition to my staff job. That plan covered a large portion of the medications and the procedures we ultimately needed to conceive and grow our son. It was galling that we still had to pay so much even though we lived where we lived, but as the financial aid person told us at our clinic, "it was a drop in the bucket" compared to the cost of paying out of pocket for one full IVF cycle.
Other insurance options: Talk to your employer about whether they might add insurance coverage as a way to retain valued employees such as you, or consider changing jobs to a company that does offer fertility coverage, suggests Dr. Camille Hammond, the CEO of the Tenina Q. Cade Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to education about and funding for infertility treatment. Or, work a side job to save money specifically to pay for family building.
Paying for extra insurance wasn't something I'd thought about before, but it was worth it for us. Our son was born about a year after we first began our fertility journey—and we dropped that extra plan as soon as it made sense to do so.
You may feel funny asking others for donations to fund your IVF, but you may be surprised by who is willing to help. That was the experience of Mandy and Kemper Gibson of Hendersonville, North Carolina. When tests uncovered that she had unexplained endometriosis, which explained why she hadn't gotten pregnant successfully for the past two years, the couple realized they would need IVF to conceive and carry a pregnancy. She updated friends on what she and her husband were going through via Facebook and Instagram posts.
People responded by offering their best wishes, and a few suggested starting a GoFundMe campaign. "We had thought about it but didn't want to ask people for money," she says. "it's not like we had cancer or our house burned down." But after further thought, the couple established a Help Mandy and Kemper With IVF Expenses campaign to see what would happen.
"People I haven't talked to in years gave us money," she say. They raised about $3,500, which has helped to pay for IVF medication used for her IVF, but it is far short of the $30,000 the couple has spent out of pocket thus far.
Her advice: "Don't be afraid to attempt to crowdsource," she says. "We were hesitant because we didn't want to seem like we were asking for money. But it turns out we had a lot of friends and family were willing to support us." Additionally, one relative gave the couple a direct donation of $10,000, and other friends donated smaller amounts to them via Venmo or check. "It can't hurt to try," she says.
Some organizations offer grants specifically for family-building treatments such as IVF, said the Cade Foundation's Hammond. The Cade Foundation lists grant options here, while RESOLVE offers this list and the Bundle of Joy Fund is another resource for families in a specific geographic area in the U.S. The clinic you work with may also have specific grant programs you're eligible for.
Andrea Leon, 27, of Frederick, Maryland, applied for and won a $10,000 grant from the Cade Foundation after her physician told her about the program; she has used it all for IVF and PGS testing and a high risk protocol to ensure her ninth pregnancy is successful. She has conceived eight times but all have ended in miscarriage, and her insurance company won't cover any treatment to try to prevent future losses because she can conceive on her own.
"I didn't apply for grants right away because I felt like others needed it more than I did," she says. "But that is not true—we are all deserving to get financial help and support to help us through this journey."
Leon, who runs a TikTok (@drehelton) account about her fertility journey that offers advice and resources to others, noted that she and her husband worked with a financial advisor to help save the additional money needed for fertility treatment, worked extra jobs, and used savings to make up the balance of the costs. It is advice that Hammond tells others as well.
"Look at your household budget and look at the money you already have," says Hammond. "Sometimes people have the money to move forward on their own, if they use their money a bit differently over the next one to two years, they could be able to self-finance this activity. This is important because we don't have the [grant] money to fund everyone who applies."
Loans and credit cards
Applying for a loan from a lender is one option that allows you to obtain a certain amount of cash, typically based on how much you can afford to take on based on your credit history, FICA score, and other factors, with the promise that you'll repay that money, with interest, within a certain amount of time.
Jules Segal, the CEO of CapexMD, a lender focused solely on funding fertility treatments, says his staff understands the terminology, pressures and anxiety of IVF because 90 percent of them have gone through it themselves. The company also works directly with a number of fertility clinics around the country and are able to disburse payments directly to those clinics as you are beginning treatment.
"We are essentially one-stop shopping," says Segal, who notes that CapexMD loan packages typically include the costs of medications and/or genetic testing and/or egg donation if needed. Other lenders, which are typically banks that may sell and resell your loan, may not have the fertility perspective that CapexMD does, Segal adds. Interest rates for CapexMD loans range from 7-12.5 percent, with a small percentage of loans qualifying for a lower interest rate based on various factors.
If you own a home, you can also look into getting a home equity line of credit, or you can look into obtaining low-interest credit cards to put the cost of fertility treatment on credit, with the idea that you'll pay back the costs with interest. Hammond says she hasn't recommended that people pursue these options—"not because they are not valid, but my goal is to think about things that you don't already think about," she said. "I don't want to endorse companies that could be predatory, or that I haven't vetted. My goal is to not repeat what people already know," she said.
Compare the interest rates when considering different loan and/or credit card options, and consider what life might be like when you need to repay them in the future—including if you might not have been successful with family-building, or if you do have a new child but might need to reduce or stop working altogether to care for the baby.
Don't forget: Ask about all clinic options
Once you know what clinic you are working with and what treatment you'll be pursing, speak frankly with the financial department about what options exist. Some clinics offer discounts to members of the military, for example, or have programs where you might pay for a certain number of procedures with the possibility of a refund if there's no live birth.
Once you know what medications you'll need, look at GoodRX.com to determine where you can obtain the least-expensive medications, either through a mail-order or local specialty pharmacy.
Ultimately, know you aren't alone, even if it might feel like you are.
"People have no idea how expensive it is," says Gibson. "The pharmacist told me my insurance wasn't covering it, and I told her I'd have to pay out of pocket for it. She said, 'It's quite expensive,' and when I told her we had already dropped $30,000 on infertility treatment, so paying $1,100 for the medication wouldn't be surprising, her direct response was,'Wowzers.'"
More awareness about the costs of infertility treatment might help make changes so that insurance plans are more likely to cover the costs of family building. "There's no reason why we should pay for all these other diseases, and that families [struggling with] infertility shouldn't have the same level of support," says Hammond.