IVF: How to Pay for an Expensive and Emotional Process

Loans, Personal Loans
how to pay for IVF emotional process

After struggling to get pregnant, Nikki and Mike McDermott of Lake Worth, Florida, were determined to do whatever it took to have a family. She took the fertility medication Clomid, underwent $500 in diagnostic tests and tried intrauterine insemination, all without success.

McDermott is far from alone. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Survey of Family Growth (2011-2013), 11.3% of women ages 15 to 44 — that’s 6.9 million women — have received fertility services.

It’s an expensive and emotional path, and success is not guaranteed.

“At that point emotionally, I was like, I can’t keep doing this up and down rollercoaster,” Nikki McDermott says. “We wanted something that had a higher success rate, so we did in vitro fertilization.”

Yet even a single cycle of IVF can be out of reach for many couples.

The high — and typically uncovered — cost of IVF

The McDermotts were quoted $14,000 for an IVF package including medications and procedures. At the time, McDermott was on her husband’s employer’s insurance plan, which offered no fertility coverage. To cover the bulk of treatment, the McDermotts took out a $10,000 fertility loan from a lender partnered with her doctor’s office at a sizable interest rate of just under 22%.

The first IVF cycle was successful for the McDermotts.  Having her son, Mikey, now a toddler, was worth the emotional and financial stress, McDermott says. “At the end of the day, we pay the monthly fee for the loan, and we just joke around that he can’t go to college,” she says.

According to data collected on 3,192 IVF patients and provided to NerdWallet by FertilityIQ, an online resource for those seeking fertility treatments, the national average cost for one IVF cycle, including drugs and the procedure, is $19,857. Some doctors offer packages or bundles at a discount, but the costs are still significant.

Some states mandate that health insurance cover fertility treatment, but the majority do not. According to the study by FertilityIQ, which involved more than 3,000 patients who received 7,141 IVF cycles in total, 28% had 76%-100% of treatment costs covered by insurance. But 56% of surveyed users had zero coverage, and the remainder of patients had only partial coverage. (Disclosure: NerdWallet CEO Tim Chen is an investor in FertilityIQ.) See the methodology below.

Making financial tradeoffs and saving for IVF is the best case scenario, says Shane Sullivan, a certified financial planner with United Capital in Austin, Texas. But for those eager to move forward without adequate savings, financing may be the answer. For the McDermotts, that answer was a fertility loan. Other IVF funding options, summarized below, include loans from credit unions, online lenders and credit cards.

Paying for IVF

If you’re seeking IVF treatments, whether you plan to buy a package or pay as you go, your credit history plays a large role in determining which financing options are available to you.

» MORE: Check your credit score

FERTILITY LOANS

Lenders that focus specifically on fertility financing typically partner with doctor’s offices, and you can usually use this type of financing only if your provider offers it. Fertility-specific lenders may have higher interest rates, but the doctor’s office typically coordinates with the lender and receives the funds directly, removing some headache for patients. One of the most well-known fertility lenders is CapexMD, which offers loans through participating fertility clinics.

CREDIT UNION LOANS

These personal installment loans have fixed rates with monthly payments. Credit unions are often the best choice for personal loans, as they usually have the lowest interest rates available, often starting as low as 7%, and can be open to lending to members with less-than-stellar credit. Federal credit unions are required to cap their interest rates at 18%. Credit union loans usually require a lot of paperwork and documentation, and they can take longer the online loans to be approved and funded.

ONLINE PERSONAL LOANS

If you’re in a hurry to pay for IVF treatment, online installment loans are approved and funded faster than loans from credit unions, sometimes within one day. They may also have more options when it comes to term length and amount. Interest rates are fixed and can be low for those with excellent credit.

Popular lenders for fertility treatments include Prosper, Lending Club and LightStream. Numerous other online lenders offer generic personal loans you can use for fertility treatment. NerdWallet recommends comparing offers from multiple lenders. The easiest way to compare actual rates is to pre-qualify online, which entails a soft credit check that won’t affect your credit score.

CREDIT CARDS

If you qualify, zero-interest credit cards can be an ideal way to fund at least some of your fertility treatment — the few thousand dollars needed to meet an insurance deductible, for instance. Credit cards typically have lower credit limits than the amount you could borrow with a loan, and you won’t know your credit limit until you are approved.

Emily Starbuck Crone is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: emily.crone@nerdwallet.com.

FertilityIQ Methodology: FertilityIQ’s data was collected between July 10, 2015 and February 19, 2017 via a survey of 3,192 patients who underwent at least one complete IVF cycle in the United States. The total number of IVF cycles completed by all patients was 7,141.