Everybody knows IVF is expensive. But when you want to find out exactly how much the IVF cycle will cost you it can often be very difficult to obtain an accurate quote. However, this is often more of a fallacy of how things are billed than any shortcomings of the clinic you are working with. This post discusses two of the different ways a clinic might bill you for IVF and what each means to you. The most common pricing models that fertility clinics use are either a pay-for-service (what most doctors/practices use in medicine) where you pay for each service rendered, or a grouped model where you pay a global fee for all the services required to undergo treatment and that one fee will cover the vast majority, if not all of services required for your particular fertility treatment.
Many clinics work with a pay-per-service billing model, where they only bill you for the services rendered. The amount of work that goes into an IVF cycle is staggering: all the doctors consultations, blood and diagnostic work, the egg retrieval, the andrology and embyrology services carried out in the laboratory to grow your embryos, the egg transfer, and all the monitoring involved to make sure everything is carried out at the proper time. Whew! Not a short list there, and I was generalizing a lot too. In this model each individual service is marked off on the day the service is rendered. This is great in that when all is said and done – you only pay for what was needed in your particular case. However, if there was a mistake made in billing – it can be very difficult for the patient to sort it out amongst the multitude of different charges on their final bill.
Another shortcoming of this model is that it makes it more difficult for fertility clinics to provide you an accurate quote for your infertility treatments. The main problem lies in that the clinic cannot know exactly what services will be needed in your particular case. Every patient is different and might require different care/services throughout the IVF cycle to maximize their chances for a successful treatment cycle- something that all parties deeply want. These uncertainties are usually pretty minimal, and IVF clinics will be able to provide you with pretty accurate quotes in most cases. However, it is not uncommon for for doctors to change the plan half way the through treatment when it is indicated. The most common expensive additional services that can sneak up on you are things like ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection – a fertilization method where the embryologist manually injects a single sperm into each mature egg) when the sperm sample is abnormal on the egg retrieval day, or additional stimulation medications when the female partner is not responding to the fertility medications as planned. It is not uncommon for there to be an occasional additional blood test or monitoring ultrasound on a case by case basis, but those are relatively inexpensive services in the grand scheme of things.
The other common billing method is to batch a whole bunch of services together into one global fee. In this model there might be just one large fee for the whole IVF cycle, and it would cover all the monitoring, diagnostic work, surgical procedures, and, quite possibly, all the lab work that would be needed to get you and your partner through the cycle. This model is often preferred by many clinics and patients in that it puts the myriad costs of IVF into a single figure. Patients have the peace of mind knowing that most/all of their costs are known up front and they can plan accordingly, and it makes the clinic’s job of collecting money and explaining the costs to the patient so much easier.
This model is also suffers from the same downfall as the pay-per-service model in that sometimes additional services will be indicated, care that might not be included in the original quote. This is more rare, as the global fee model often allows for some extra care throughout the IVF cycle. This, of course, presents the issue that you might be paying extra for your services than you would have if you just paid per service rendered. That is simply the cost of offering this type of pricing model – the business has to recoup the costs of the more expensive patients somewhere. This model often makes it a little more difficult for the clinic to ask the patient for additional funds as the patient could think that everything was already included in the global fee. Good communication on the clinic’s part is essential here to reduce these types of issues. Nobody ever wants to be hit with charges out of the blue.
As the patient it is very important that you be proactive every step of the way. Make sure you understand which pricing model the clinic uses, and what is covered by any global fees you might be paying. More importantly, make sure to ask what is not covered by the global fees. Being prepared might not change the cost of your IVF cycle at the end of treatment, but it could save you a lot of stress by making sure you understand the costs every step of the way.
I wish I could provide more detail on this topic, but every clinic prices their services a little differently, and if they have a global fee, what it covers can vary. If you have any questions or comments please use the form below to ask.