This very special guest post was written by a friend of mine, Channah (obviously not her real name). Channah has gone through several very expensive IVF cycles without insurance coverage, and she hopes that this post will help other readers who are in similar circumstances. Feel free to share additional advice in the comments section.
Infertility treatments can be unbelievably expensive, especially IVF, or in-vitro-fertilization. While our six IVF cycles cost about $16,000 each, we researched ways to save money on the cycles, and we managed to bring those costs down to about half on average. We wanted to share this information with other couples who are undergoing IVF.
- Insurance: if you have any sort of insurance coverage, ask your doctor to run all your procedures and labs through the insurance, even if your insurance policy states that it has no infertility treatment coverage. Very often insurance companies will cover the treatment of infertility but not fertility treatments. It's a very thin, gray line, but it can save you thousands of dollars. Even though my insurance would not cover any of my IVF-cycle related procedures, they did cover all of my ultrasounds and blood draws. Same story with medications. Any medication on your protocol that could be related to some other condition might be covered, and you'll never know until you try to run them through your pharmacy insurance.
- Insurance Mandates: some states have insurance mandates for ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology). As of this writing, the following 15 states have insurance mandates: Arkansas, Louisiana, New York, California, Maryland, Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Montana, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, and West Virginia. Now, just because these states have mandates does not mean that your employer needs to offer them to you if you are receiving insurance at work. However, you might be able to purchase riders that include ART when you join your company's insurance plan. Inquire about this from your Human Resources person. Here's a quick summary of each of these state's insurance mandates.
- Flex accounts: if your workplace or your spouse's workplace offers a Flex medical account, max it out. This way, the out of pocket money spent on your treatments that come out of your Flex account will be pre-tax.
- Run OOP payments through rewards cards: No matter how much coverage you might have (or none at all) put all of your out-of-pocket medical payments on a rewards credit card and then pay them off as soon as possible with cash. One nice little perk of being able to charge your IVF treatments is that you can rack up credit card points like crazy. From all of our IVF cycles, I was able to buy granite countertops for my kitchen with store gift cards that I got from our credit card points.
- Take the tax deduction: buy a notebook, and glue a large ziplock bag to the back cover. Write down every penny you spend on medical treatments, and keep all of your receipts in the bag. At the end of the year, you might be able to deduct your medical expenses from your taxes, if they are a significant portion of your income. Log all of your trips to the doctor, the labs, the pharmacies, and if you go somewhere else to get your injections. The mileage is deductible as well. If you need to stay in a hotel to be near a hospital over the course of your treatment, all of the hotel and traveling costs are deductible too. Please note that this deduction will be drastically reduced under the Affordable Heath Care Act (aka Obamacare), so check with your accountant first.
- Drug company medicine scholarships: Many big pharmaceutical companies offer fertility medicine scholarships to patients in need: EMD Serono has a program called Compassionate Care (866-538-7879) . If you and your spouse combined make less than $100,000/year, apply for the program. Be prepared to show your tax returns and proof of American citizenship. They offer 3,000 IU of Gonal F (approximate value $2,800) plus cetrotide kits (each one $359) and some other expensive medications for free. If you don't qualify for Compassionate Care, you can still get some of your EMD Serono meds at a substantial discount with their Go Card Program. Your doctor should know about it, but if he/she doesn't, get information here. Another large drug company, Ferring Fertility, (maker of Menopur, Bravelle, Endometrin, Repronex and Novarel,) have a program called H.E.A.R.T.: by paying $10 for a one-year membership couples can save up to $1,800 on their Bravelle prescription and up to $300 on their Menopur prescription (both very expensive medications).
- Free Vivelle: If your IVF protocol includes Vivelle patches, you can get a one-month supply (generally 8 patches) for free here.
- Sign up for a clincal study: IVF is one of the most heavily researched areas of medicine. Sign up for an IVF study and you might get your entire cycle for free! Keep in mind that you must fulfill certain age and medical condition requirements. Find out about current studies by asking at your clinic and googling "IVF studies" (yes, it's that easy and obvious. There are tons of studies going on).
- Infertility grants and scholarships: there are a few private organizations out there that give away annual grants and scholarships to IVF couples including: INCID, Pay It Forward, Angels of Hope, Bonei Olam, The Cade Foundation, Parenthood for Me, Fertile Hope, and others.
- Share resources through a support group: Make sure you join an IVF support group. Many of these support groups have anonymous message boards where tons of valuable information and resources are exchanged and offered. I'm an Orthodox Jew, so I joined ATIME, which is a group that is sensitive to the special needs of my community.
- Ask your clinic about spare medications: IVF drugs can cost a small fortune. Ask your clinic nurse if any of their other patients who are done with their cycle have donated their leftover medications. My IVF nurse surprised me with several donated vials of one of my most expensive meds without my asking. I could kick myself for not asking her first. Please note that it is illegal to buy or otherwise attain drugs through non-medical facilities or persons. Let me just say that you must make absolutely sure that all meds you use for your protocol are 1) properly stored (many require refrigeration), 2) are not expired, and 3) are unopened. I would also not trust fertility meds obtained from other countries, as their drug safety standards might be different from ours.
- Attain IVF Refund Program: This is a type of "insurance" available to patients who meet certain medical and age criteria. When you join their program, you can receive up to a 70% refund if the IVF treatment is unsuccessful. We did this and it enabled us to do multiple cycles.
- Research, research, research. The best way to keep up with current ways to save money on fertility treatments is to be very proactive. The internet is a fantastic resource for finding new ways to finance your treatment. Before I started cycling, I spent hours online looking for new ways to finance my upcoming treatments. Every day I discovered something new. Keep looking, share information with other IVF couples, and keep asking your doctor and IVF nurse.
Good luck with your treatments, and G-d willing, may they be the answers to your prayers.