Should IVF be affordable for all?

July 25, 2010


Newsweek has a new article out called, “Should IVF Be Affordable for All?”  I’m glad that the issue has been brought up in a major publication and is getting some attention.  I’ve always known that IVF is vastly more expensive in the US, but the numbers in this article are ridiculous when compared to other countries.

While the average price of IVF treatment in Japan was 3,149 euros ($4,012) and Belgium’s 2,441 euros ($3,109), the U.S. averaged 10,812 euros ($13,775).

In my personal experience, my close friend in Mexico did IVF and I think she paid around $5,000 per cycle.  The cost is double here.  She even invited me to come stay with her and be treated there, which would be great except for the whole time off from work thing.

The cost of IVF is simply prohibitive for many couples.  It shouldn’t be that way.  For a while, IVF seemed impossible for us due to the high cost.  We would have gladly moved on to IVF sooner if it weren’t so expensive.  The way we were finally able to make it happen was to refinance our house and cash out $20,000.  We feel extremely lucky that we were able to make that happen and get that money.  I feel terrible for others in our situation without our resources. It’s so unfair.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the article that I would like to comment on:

David Fleming, director of the Center for Health Ethics at the University of Missouri, says the main concern with making fertilization affordable for more people is the risk of “commoditization” of babies. “IVF, with all due respect—is it a question of need or a question of want?”

A question of need or want?  This isn’t a car, a house, a dress…how can you even ask that question about a human being?  Maybe it’s both?  But the question is asked as if that is a bad thing.  When it’s something you think about all day every day, and involves so much love, it’s a transcendent feeling and experience to want and have a child.  It’s a shame that people take this attitude…probably from hearing the Nadia Suleman “Octomom” type stories, instead of hearing stories like mine.  Well, hers is the only such ridiculous crazy story I’ve heard.  I’m also guessing the guy that said this has a carload of kids that were “accidents.”

Whether infertility should be classified as a disease or a socially constructed need is a dilemma at the center of this debate. While most other developed countries consider infertility a medical condition and insurance policies often cover the costs of IVF, health insurers in the U.S. typically don’t think “wanting a child” is a medical necessity. A complicating factor, according to St. Luke’s Silber, is that up to 80 percent of infertility cases are caused simply by increasing maternal age. “It’s hard to call infertility a disease. It’s normal aging,” he says, adding that only about 20 percent of women who seek treatment have what’s called a “valid diagnosis,” such as that they don’t ovulate.

Ok, first of all–yes, infertility is a disease. The World Health Organization defines it as such, “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.” Secondly, the statement about infertility just being normal aging is just ridiculous.  I have three (count them…3) medically diagnosed problems and am considering to be of normal child-bearing age.

Silber says. “The incidence of infertility is zero to 1 percent in teenagers. For women in their early 20s, only 1 to 2 percent are infertile. In their late 20s, 16 percent of women are infertile, and in their mid- to late 30s, 25 percent are infertile. By age 40, more than half of women are infertile, and pregnancy beyond age 43 is very uncommon.”

Those figures might be accurate if you were a computer and not able to analyze them.  Well, let’s see, how many teenagers do you know that are actively trying to get pregnant?  Oh, right…none. So, how would they know if they’re infertile yet?  I could have had sex in the back of a pickup truck in my teens and I would NOT have gotten pregnant.  For those in their late 20s, I’m sure there are many people like us who only started trying to conceive then.  It seems to be more of a trend for my generation — to have kids a little later, people are finishing degrees or advanced degrees, getting married later, getting settled in their jobs.  So, even in my late twenties, I didn’t truly know we were infertile yet.  My point being that I think there are MANY more cases of infertility in these age groups, but they’re just not diagnosed yet.

A patient, Kelly Rhodes, believes IVF treatments need to come down in price and that insurance companies should cover 100 percent of fertility treatments, since they cover items like birth-control pills or hysterectomies. “It contradicts itself,” she says. “You can stop me from having a child, but you can’t help me have one?”

I agree.  I think insurance companies should cover treatments.  They do in some states due to the laws, but not in Virginia.  I have tired of writing letters to my Senators and Congressmen.   A few lone voices will not help.  We all have to speak up and take action!


If you aren’t able to come up with money on your own, here are some other ideas:

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  • A

    Great post. The idea that people are infertile because they waited too long irks me to no end. And IF that were the main cause of infertility, which is the greater cost to society–women having children before they are financially stable, or women having children via fertility treatment?

  • I am sick and tired of paying for insurance benefits for people who made a choice and have a resulting medical conditions. I didn’t make a choice and I have to pay… really fair.

    An ICLW Visit from #107 (mfi, speedskating, strength)
    liddy @ the unfair struggle

  • Yes, the cost comparison really highlights the whole health industry cost issues, doesn’t it. My wife did a couple of IVF cycles in Thailand where there are some very good centers and cost was about US$3,000 per cycle at the time (about 4 years ago).

    But in the article you linked, one couple maxed out their credit cards to pay for IVF and then filed bankruptcy. Now come on, that’s nothing more than white collar crime, wanting something so bad you will steal from others to get it. For one person it’s a baby, for another it’s a Porsche. They only reason you feel differently is that…you want something different. Why not just rob a bank?

  • Rebecca

    Here from ICLW.

    Great post and really interesting article. I’m in MO and it makes me want to look into this doctor in St.L! I agree that it is a crime that this treatment is so unaffordable in the US compared to other countries. And the stigma surrounding it and the attitudes people can have when we dare to suggest IF is a disease makes me so angry.

    As to the pp about “white collar crime”. You’re implying that they intentionally planned on declaring bankruptcy and plotted to “steal” the treatment. But, they didn’t. They went after a medical treatment deemed unecessary by insurance and ended up over their heads because something that should have been affordable for them wasn’t. This happens many people dealing with all sorts of health issues in our system. I’m sure this wasn’t their plan. Do you say that anyone who has ever maxed out their cc and declared bankruptcy by buying clothes, electronics, etc is a thief? Would you have said the same if the IVF hadn’t worked?

  • Whew, I get all fired up when I think about the cost of IVF. I think it should be free. I get sick at the thought of how many couples are forced to live childfree simply because they cannot afford to do IVF, especially when it sometimes takes more than one cycle.

    Making a baby should be free. It should come as natural as it comes. Frustration about this topic, sorry.

    Happy ICLW!

  • ICLW

    There are many reasons for infertility including male factor infertility. Do they tell the men they waited too long to knock someone up when they find out they have low or no sperm? Of course not! Should I have had a child when I was 25 and single and living with my mother? Infertility is a health condition for 99.9% of us and we certainly would have made a huge difference in our lives if it had been covered by our national medical coverage. It’s all good when you end up with a baby, you were persistent, right? But if you end up with nothing, you’re told to get over it!