IVF Costs Can Approach $100K—Here's How One Woman Saved Thousands
I never expected that my long-held family attitude of never accepting a sticker price would save me thousands on my IVF treatment and eventually afford me a family. Here are six steps you can take to cut costs on fertility treatments, too.
My father's life motto has always been, "I could have found it cheaper," which is perhaps why I have never looked at a sticker price and instantly accepted it myself. This attitude has served me well, but I never expected it would save me thousands on my IVF treatment and eventually afford me a family.
In October of 2017, I had spent the better part of a year trying to conceive as a single mother by choice. After seven failed intrauterine inseminations, IUI's, and digging a $12,000 hole into my savings, I was brought into the office of my fertility specialist to discuss next steps. My doctor explained to me that the IUI's were obviously not working, that we could keep trying them, but at my age (which was 38 at the time), it was probably best to be even more aggressive and look into IVF.
I hadn't expected him to say this. I had expected him to tell me we were going to keep trying, to keep making tweaks to the IUI process. I had expected him to tell me, like he had been telling me for months, that we just needed to be patient. But it was clear that we were running out of patience—and time.
The nurse handed me a binder stuffed with paperwork about the logistics of IVF, and a pricing sheet for the costs of one round of treatment. Circled at the top of the page in black ink was the price: "$26,000." A staggering and soul-crushing price, none of which would be covered by my insurance, since, like the majority of states in our country, Indiana does not mandate fertility coverage to be included in plan benefits. So there it was: One round of treatment, one round's worth of medication, no guarantees of a baby, all for the price of $26,000. I left the room in tears.
I knew becoming pregnant as a single woman was going to be tricky, but I thought my relationship status was going to be the tough part—not the state of my fertility.
Twenty six thousand dollars might as well have been two million as far as I was concerned. Already, to afford my previous "non-aggressive" treatment, I had dipped into my savings and turned my Honda Accord into an Uber. I had the option to take out one of those high-interest fertility loans that was included in my IVF binder, but I had promised myself no major debt. I felt lost and broken—but I was still determined (and mad as hell).
Silly as it may sound, for me, money seemed like a dumb and infuritating reason to never become a parent. There has to be a way, I thought. I began to think to myself, Indiana isn't the only place with fertility clinics. IVF happens everywhere.
Then I heard my dad's voice in the back of my mind, whispering, "I bet I could find it cheaper."
Step 1: Google
So I started Google searching "affordable IVF," and I found my version of affordable: a clinic in Syracuse, NY called CNY Fertility, which offers IVF at $3,995 per cycle. CNY boasted similar success rates as my local clinic, yet at the fraction of the cost. Through Facebook and more googling, I discovered news stories about other fertility patients who had traveled from Indiana to CNY. I spoke to them, I listened to their recommendations, I saw their children, and I was sold. I signed on to be a travel patient at CNY Fertility, and began to fiscally prepare for my first IVF cycle.
Step 2: Refinance
In the big picture, CNY was far more cost-effective than receiving treatment at my local clinic. That said, I still needed to come up with more money to make treatment feasible.
I took stock of my world, and honed in on my biggest asset: my house. I had been in my home since 2007, and had built up a nice bit of equity. I reached out to my lender, and quickly learned that a cash-out refinance would not only give me the money I needed for one cycle of treatment; it could buy me three cycles, plus medications. Keeping with my pledge of no major debt, the refinance would only add a couple of additional years to the term of my mortgage, and my monthly payment would remain roughly the same.
Step 3: Grants
Through my work in the nonprofit world, I had learned that there are grants for everything. Grants for people who are left-handed, grants for people who wear size six shoes—you name it, there is a grant for it. It stood to reason that there had to be grants to assist with fertility treatment. I searched and found numerous grant programs that assisted with expenses for reproductive care. I also found a grant with a giving timeline that was in line with the timeframe of my treatment plan—and I applied. I was awarded an unexpected, and most appreciated, gift of $1,000.
Step 4: Shop around
Just as I had shopped around for fertility centers, I began to shop around for all of the components that fell under the IVF treatment umbrella. I priced out the cost for ultrasounds between radiology centers, I price-compared the fees for blood work at area hospitals, and most especially I looked for savings on IVF medications.
With certain drugs, I had to be a super-sleuth to find them, but discounts were out there, as were manufacturers' coupons, free samples, and discount cards for nearly every medication I would need for treatment. Which was key because, beyond the IVF treatment cycle, medications were easily the second-most expensive piece of the process.
Step 5: Side-hustle
For extra financial cushion, I continued to side-hustle as an Uber driver. I even explored the option of working part-time as a barista at Starbucks, since their benefits include fertility coverage for even part-time employees. But, the time it would take to become vested was a bit longer than I had to give. So, I continued picking up Uber fares on my way to and from work, as well as on weekends and holidays—to pay for acupuncture prior to my egg retrieval, and to cover the shipping costs of my donor's sperm sample.
I also registered with a marketing company to be a part of paid focus groups; I could be paid anywhere from $75 to $125 just for my opinions on a new logo or a fancy new gadget. At one focus group, I was given a dinner to taste-test, a $125 Visa gift card, and I picked up an Uber fare on my way home.
Step 6: Use points
As I scraped and clawed at the bottom of my piggy bank, I found I had thousands of credit card points I could use to help cover some of my traveling expenses to and from New York. One card's points would cover my hotel stay; another's allowed me to convert my points to restaurant gift cards to help with food expenses. Some points I just turned in for the cash.
By March of 2018, I began traveling to New York. In my first round of IVF, my doctor retrieved two eggs, fertilized them, and put them back in my body. I went home to Indiana to wait. Two weeks after the procedure, a blood test and a disappointed nurse called to tell me that the cycle had failed. I cried, I regrouped, I started prepping for round two. Same drill: A drive to New York, two retrieved eggs, two fertilized, two returned to my body, two weeks later a failed blood test.
My bank balance, much like my hopes, was starting to dip low. I had scrounged up just enough money to cover three rounds of treatment should I need it. Now, it was all or nothing. After my second failed round of IVF, I gave myself a month off to emotionally recover. In July of 2018, my third and last round of treatment began. I drove to New York, two eggs retrieved, two fertilized, two returned to my body, I returned to Indiana to wait. On the morning of August 14, my blood was drawn for my pregnancy test. As the phlebotomist took my vial of blood back to the lab for processing, I returned home to cry and wait. I was sure I wasn't pregnant; it started to sink in that all of this effort and dreaming might have been for nothing. That I now had to begin envisioning what my life would be like without a child in it. It was the lowest moment of my entire journey.
My phone rang. It was the nurse from CNY. She said hello and asked me how I was doing. I told her she had to tell me how I was. She responded, "You have an HCG level of 137." I was pregnant. In April of 2019 I gave birth to a 9lb, 13oz baby boy named Wyatt who is more precious than any dollar I ever spent.
I am forever grateful for my dad's voice inside my head—for that penny-pinching gene I could apparently never shake. It's what made Wyatt possible. Had I taken those first IVF price quotes at face value, stayed in Indiana, and undergone three rounds, I would have easily spent $78,000. By questioning whether it had to be that expensive, I spent roughly $27,000 total. And more importantly, if I hadn't questioned and searched, I would still be Angela, but I may have never been Mama.