Funding Fertility: how to get a good deal when paying for treatment
Funding fertility treatment can add a massive financial burden to the physical and emotional issues for those struggling to have a baby.
There are three main types of fertility treatment: medicines, surgical procedures and assisted conception, which includes intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Sadly, access to IVF on the NHS is a postcode lottery – it varies depending on where you live in the UK.
For some, age can mean that there isn’t much time to save the cash needed - or find the best deal
In England, guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that women with fertility problems under the age of 40 may be offered three full cycles of IVF or a single cycle for women aged 40 to 42.
In practice, local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) decide who gets IVF and how much.
Individual CCGs may exclude people if, for example, they already have children (even if only one person is already a parent from a previous relationship) smoke, are overweight, over 35 or deemed not to be in a ‘stable relationship.
Only 23 CCGs offer the full three cycles that NICE recommends, according to research by charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).
If you are not eligible for NHS treatment, you can pay to go private, which is where the costs mount up.
A single cycle of IVF can cost up to £5,000, and you may need to fork out for drugs, tests and consultations on top.
IVF is rarely successful on the first attempt, so couples undergoing several cycles can face bills for tens of thousands of pounds.
Same-sex couples and single women face additional expense as they may have to pay for six to 12 cycles of artificial insemination before they can be considered for IVF treatment on the NHS.
How to pay for treatment
The success rate for IVF drops dramatically with age, dropping from 31.3% for under 35s to just 3.5% for those over 44, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HEFA).
So, for some prospective parents, age can mean that there isn’t much time to save the cash needed - or to research the best way to finance treatment.
If you’re considering embarking on IVF, here are some things to think about:
Start by saving
Given the cost of fertility treatment, start by saving as much as you can, as fast as you can. Review all your spending to see what you can cut out and where you can cut down.
Brace yourself for borrowing
If you need to borrow, look for the lowest cost options. Interest-free credit card offers or low-interest personal loans can be significantly cheaper than dipping into your overdraft, for example, and may be cheaper than the IVF payment plans offered by fertility clinics. Some homeowners remortgage to raise extra cash.
Conception can be a long, gruelling process if you encounter problems along the way.
As fertility treatment may stretch out over more than five years, you might consider investing. Investing in the stock market holds out the potential for higher returns than in a savings account, although with greater risk.
Sticking with more cautious investments means there is more chance the money will still be available when you need it most.
If you are not eligible for NHS IVF treatment with your local CCG, check if you might elsewhere. For example, if you live near the boundary of two CCGs, could you move GP to one covered by a different CCG? Some couples have even moved house to areas where they are more likely to receive free treatment!
Others set up appeals on fundraising websites such as GoFundMe.
Some clinics offer pricey extras, but haven’t been proven to increase the chance of pregnancy
How to get a good deal
Shop around before signing up
Always compare costs between different clinics. Private fertility clinics set their own prices, and the same treatment can cost two or even three times more depending on where you choose, according to the HFEA.
Check what’s included in your quote
At first sight, one clinic may look distinctly cheaper than another, but make sure you are comparing like with like. For example, a cheap quote for IVF may become more expensive if you need to add the cost of fertility drugs and freezing extra embryos on top.
Research any add ons
Some clinics offer pricey treatment add-ons and complementary therapies, although many have not been proven to increase the chance of pregnancy. Do your research before forking out, such as looking at the HFEA’s guidance about effectiveness.
Think about egg sharing
Some clinics offer free or discounted treatment if you are willing to donate some of your eggs for others to use. This is a major decision but can save a lot of money if you meet their criteria for egg sharing.
Weigh up whether to go abroad
Overseas fertility clinics may be distinctly less expensive than in the UK, and many people have safe, effective treatments abroad. However, other countries may not apply the same quality and safety regulations.
Success rates may appear very high if the data is presented in a different way. If you do consider travelling for treatment, make sure to budget for additional costs such as flights, accommodation, living costs, specialist medical insurance and taking time off work.
3 things to do right now...
Check with your GP whether you are likely to be eligible for free fertility treatment on the NHS. Eligibility for IVF varies widely through the UK.
Plan how to cover the costs if you need to pay for private fertility treatment. Review your budget, start saving and work out low costs ways to borrow if necessary.
Compare quotes between different clinics, whether at home or abroad, and nail down exactly what’s included and what extra costs need to be added on top.
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Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.