Is there a difference between car shopping and IVF shopping?
The answer is yes. It’s a fact – the amount of money one pays for an IVF cycle could potentially exceed the cost of some brand new cars. You can’t approach shopping for the cheapest IVF cycle the way you’d approach trying to get the best deal on a brand new car. The reason is this: when clinics give you their IVF cycle costs, they aren’t referring to the same procedures and services.
When you’re calling an IVF clinic to get information about their IVF costs, you are referring to an entire car.
The first clinic may give you a price for the engine.
The next clinic may give you the price for an engine with 4 wheels.
The third clinic will give you a price for an engine with 4 wheels and the seats.
It’s very confusing because you have no way of knowing what a clinic is referring to when they are giving you their IVF cost information. It is therefore very difficult to do any cost comparisons because you aren’t comparing apples to apples.
An IVF cycle is comprised of a very thorough work-up and evaluation followed by a “cycle” which includes injections, ultrasound monitoring, a surgery and a procedure called an embryo transfer.
When you go “IVF shopping” every clinic will refer to IVF differently. Some will give you the cost of an entire IVF cycle including everything from beginning to end while others will give you the price for only the embryology costs. This isn’t to manipulate you (I hope) but it’s simply because when you call, they don’t know about your particular situation. You will later find out that the cost of an entire IVF cycle is not much different from clinic to clinic in your area.
I have learned so much from my patients that do their due diligence and homework before they make the decision to do IVF with me. I am able to share these tips with you because of them.
Patients have been known to call all the clinics in town and then compare prices. This is what I want everyone to know: Stop shopping. Don’t do price comparisons. It is not a good use of your time. Spend your time calling clinics and meeting the different docs in your area. Once you’ve met the right match for you – then find out about the cost associated with IVF in that clinic.
This is why you should stop shopping:
- Every clinic in your geographic area will have done the same shopping that you are doing right now. If a clinic gives you a price that is lower than another clinic it is because they charge more for other things and the price will ultimately be the same.
- If you are going to still go ahead and call clinics you should also know this: when you call clinics and ask them for IVF fee schedules, the price they usually give you is the cost of retrieving the eggs and the cost of making embryos. This could be anywhere from 5K to 7K. But what you really should be asking them is this: Can you please tell me the average out of pocket cost for a patient going through an entire IVF cycle at your clinic? The average cost for a complete IVF cycle in this country is approximately 12,600 dollars. So if you’re calling clinics and they’re giving you a number that is in the six to eight thousand dollar range, I guarantee that they are not including additional procedures that most patients require. You should also realize that the medications are rarely included in the fee schedules you get over the phone. You could potentially be paying another 5K for medications (depends on your situation).
- Before you go through an IVF cycle you need a complete and thorough work-up and evaluation. Many patients are surprised when they find out that the work-up and evaluation is not included in the “cost of an IVF cycle.” If you have found a clinic that has lower IVF prices than any other clinic, I can almost promise you that the cost of your work- up in preparation for your IVF cycle will be higher to make up for the difference. If you have diagnostic infertility insurance coverage, your work-up and evaluation could possibly be covered. I’m going to put a list together of the typical pre-IVF work-up: A. Uterine cavity evaluation: either via a saline infusion sonogram, hysterosalpingogram, or hysteroscopy. I don’t expect you to know what all these things stand for but understand that most clinics in the US “require” a woman to have one of these tests. Some clinics charge $1000 for this test, others charge $420. So if you’ve called a clinic that has given you an IVF cost of 8K they are likely charging more for you to get to the IVF starting point. B. Mock embryo transfer: this is a practice embryo transfer before the real thing. Again, there is cost variation C. Initial consultation. You may walk away paying $800 after your initial consultation with your doc. You may walk away paying less. My point is that the charges add up.
- IVF doesn’t just involve putting egg and sperm cells together. There are many other procedures that your doctor may recommend such as ICSI, assisted hatching or blastocyst culture. Clinics charge different rates for these procedures and when you call and ask for IVF cost info – they won’t necessarily give you these charges. You can also ask for the cost associated with freezing and storing embryos because these are other charges that are not included in the typical fee schedules when you go shopping and can definitely add up. The typical cost associated with freezing and storing is approximately $1500.
- It is rare for an insurance company to cover IVF (in the state of California). If you do have coverage, the amount that you will have to pay out of pocket will have a lot to do with your benefits and whether your doctor is contracted with your insurance company. So IVF shopping really just has to do with finding a doctor in network that you feel comfortable with or making the decision to go out of network.
The most important thing I want you to know is this: If you have found a clinic that you feel comfortable with and a doctor that you trust – stick with that clinic. If you go to a different clinic for a “better deal” you may end up starting all over with the doctor you wanted to go to in the first place and end up paying even more for the care that you wanted.
What I also recommend you do is that if you have found a clinic that is much cheaper, talk to your clinic of choice about this. Be up front. Your doctor wants to take care of you and doesn’t want you to go somewhere else. Let them know about what you’ve learned and see if they can somehow explain how and why their charges are different. There is no harm in being open about what you’ve learned from doing your due diligence.
Find a doctor you trust and ask all your questions before you make your final decision so that you can go into your cycle without worrying about any financial surprises. The best advice that I could give any patient trying to find the cheapest IVF cycle in town is this: Spend your energy doctor shopping, not doing cost comparisons. Meet all the docs in your area and see who you feel the most comfortable with. Once you’ve made a decision about the right doctor, then talk about the cost of IVF with that clinic.
Watch out for refund programs that seem too good to be true. Watch out for lab testing and treatments that require thousands of dollars out of pocket that may seem unusual and not what all your friends seem to be doing. Feel free to ask for a second opinion before you make the decision to move forward with a treatment plan. Always ask questions.
Hope this helps