NPR logo Fertility Clinics Offer Deals, Money-Back Guarantees

Fertility Clinics Offer Deals, Money-Back Guarantees

Buying in bulk is one way thrifty consumers can save on everything from paper towels to dog food. But fertility treatments, too?

Now some IVF clinics are offering deals on fertility treatments. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Now some IVF clinics are offering deals on fertility treatments.

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It's true. At some large fertility clinics, would-be parents can buy a set number of treatments in bulk for a fee that's less than they'd pay for each one individually.

Banking on their strong track records, some clinics offer "shared-risk" plans, as they're typically called, that go one step further. If you still don't have a baby after you've exhausted your benefits, you get some or all of your money back.

The bargains can be appealing for people who don't have insurance coverage for infertility treatments, which is to say most people. According to one study conducted by human resources consultant Mercer for Resolve: the National Infertility Association, only about 20 percent of companies covered pricey treatments like in vitro fertilization, in which an egg and sperm are united outside the womb and then implanted in it.

Success rates for IVF and other infertility treatments vary depending on many factors, including age, the reason for infertility, the type of procedure and the clinic. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures, a single cycle using IVF or other assisted reproductive technology leads to a live birth 40 percent of the time in a woman under age 35. For a woman aged 43 or older, the figure drops to 5 percent.

At Shady Grove Fertility Center, a practice with 13 offices in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, patients can get six IVF cycles, or attempts, for the price of roughly two cycles, or $20,000.

There is some fine print. Patients must be under age 39 and meet other eligibility requirements to participate in the standard program. "It's mainly larger practices that can handle this kind of financial program," says Janice Koch, director of patient financial sevices for Shady Grove. "We may be one of the only ones with a 100 percent refund."

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The new health law already seems to guarantee some better benefits for women, but whether fertility treatment will be considered an essential benefit under the law has yet to be decided.