6 Ways to make your IVF treatment more affordable

Nov 11, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. ET
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Over 85,000 American women undergo in vitro fertilization, or IVF, yearly to start their families when natural conception isn't possible, which is actually a pretty big number considering that IVF can end up costing as much as your child's college education.

What is IVF? In a nutshell, IVF is when eggs are taken from the ovaries and are combined with sperm in a lab where fertilization takes place in a glass culture dish, or "in vitro," and are then placed back in the uterus.

While IVF may provide hope for infertile couples, that little bundle of joy will come with a high price tag. On average, one cycle of treatment costs $12,000 to $15,000, and you can expect to pay up to another $5,000 for medication. It regularly takes a few rounds before an IVF pregnancy is successful, so it's a big investment. What's more, you need to act quickly after an infertility diagnosis so your eggs are as young as possible. And that doesn't always allow for time to save for treatment costs.

So how can you cut costs financially without compromising your fertility care?

Work with your clinic

Some clinics may offer discounts on medications or on multiple cycles of treatment, and some may be more prepared to help you budget and work out costs in advance. Most initial fertility diagnostic testing can be done at an obstetrician's office and billed to insurance prior to seeking out a fertility clinic. At the same time, be ready to shop around and negotiate; some clinics may offer loan financing and self-pay rates, since clinics bill insurance companies at a much higher rate.

Look at your insurance policy

Your insurer may consider IVF a luxury rather than a necessity. In 15 states, however, insurers are obliged to pay for fertility treatment, but even the best policies may not necessarily cover all costs. While the World Health Organization and the National Infertility Association recognize infertility as a reproductive disease, not all organizations do. Ask your insurer if you're not sure and don't assume you're covered. Read your policy carefully and be prepared to argue your case. Typically, insurers won’t cover the cost of fertility treatments without evidence of multiple failed pregnancies. Additionally, if you are lucky enough to have your insurance cover fertility costs, coverage is typically capped anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000.

Use a flexible savings account or health savings account

If you have one, use a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA). Most major corporations offer employees an FSA account, however anyone can setup an HSA regardless of what their employer offers. These accounts allow you to set aside pre-taxed dollars for specially designated purposes including medical expenses that insurance doesn't cover. Using these savings accounts can roughly save you up to 30 percent of the cost of IVF.

Tax breaks

IVF is considered a medical expense in the eyes of Uncle Sam. Depending on your income, it may be possible to offset this expense against your taxable income. Also, the cost of transportation to and from doctor’s offices or hospitals can be deducted. To write off your fertility expenses, you must exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income for that year.

No- or low-interest financing

If you know you need to borrow money to pay for IVF, be smart about how you are borrowing. If you are thinking of putting some of the procedure on a credit card, get a credit card that offers a 0 percent APR intro period. These periods usually last for up to a year and a half, giving you time to pay off the debt without being hit with interest. You can also rack up some serious cash back or airline miles. If you want to apply for a loan, look for lenders that offer the lowest interest rates. Many online loan sites offer lower interest rates because it is cheaper for them to operate online instead of having physical branches.

When nothing else works…

Asking family for help may be an option, as is crowdfunding, seeking treatment abroad for IVF and scholarships from non-profit organizations. Some programs may refund some costs if the treatment is not successful, but that could mean paying for several cycles upfront.

Always research your options, whether it be HSA, or using the cost of IVF on next year's tax return. There are many ways to make this very difficult and costly process a bit more affordable.