In-vitro fertilization patients have a problem. Fortunately, it’s a problem technology can alleviate while improving health outcomes, and making patients’ finances more efficient and manageable.
We’re talking about money, of course. Some patients can’t afford needed treatment for themselves or loved ones, especially where deductibles and other limits outpace insurance coverage. For this reason, treatments by dentists, plastic surgeons, and endocrinologists who specialize in IVF can be especially hard for consumers to access.
And IVF is expensive. Just one “cycle” of treatment can cost close to $25,000, according to the New York Times, citing FertilityIQ. On average, people need three to four IVF cycles to conceive.
Even when a third-party credit provider like CareCredit (a spinoff from GE Capital) is in the picture, patients can be denied treatment or assigned crushing interest rates that make treatment prohibitive. Outcomes can be similar with consumer-lending departments of banks, big or small.
Are you in the right place for IVF?
Before we explore IVF financing in more detail, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what IVF entails, and how to locate a suitable specialist.
- You have an emotional support system in place. This can come from your partner, your family, your friends, a trained counselor, or all of the above
- You’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while (six months if you’re over 35; for a year if you’re any younger)
- You plan to get a thorough examination by your gynecologist before you start IVF treatment, and test the viability of your partner’s sperm
- You’ve asked your gynecologist to refer you to some endocrinologists who specialize in IVF. (Another trusted resource is the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology website.)
- You understand the side effects of IVF medications. As a result, you know that scheduling treatment for times when you’re less stressed — slower periods at work, say — can lead to better outcomes
If you’ve checked most of these off your list, and feel you’re likely to seek IVF treatment, then it’s time to review the option of working with a practice that offers financing but doesn’t hive it, and your private information, off to outsiders.
Increasingly, once a medical practice has chosen a credit vendor to facilitate its clients’ treatments, how the lender treats the practice’s patients is out of the practice’s hands.
Third-party lenders can get in the way
That can hurt patient-doctor relationships.
“When a third-party lender enters the picture, the rapport and trust the patient and practice have established, sometimes over years, can be compromised,” says Elena Ionenko, co-founder and head of operations at TurnKey Lender, a leading lending-tech maker that helps borrowers and lenders in more than 50 countries worldwide.
Patients receive the third-party lender’s paperwork (with branding throughout), as well as promotional emails and other missives designed to lure patients to unaffiliated practices for subsequent treatment as the lender “seeks to add more practices to its customer roster,” adds Ionenko.
Bluntly, third-party healthcare lenders aren’t there for your good. They exist to make money by lending money, a mission that has nothing to do with health. But when patients are denied financing, or get late fees for missing payments, they tend to blame the practitioner, not the third-party financier.
Things can get dicier when a patient’s zero-interest introductory period ends, and sky-high rates stipulated in the fine print rush into effect.
Again though, despite the head-turning impacts of a third parties’ harsh penalties and high rates, it’s the doctor whom patients blame when the financing goes awry.
IVF can set a patient back by $100,000
At any given moment these days, non-refundable, out-of-pocket medical procedures in the US account for about $4 billion. No less than a quarter of that will fall into arrears, with some of that debt sold to collection agencies. This can lead to financial hardship, both for patients and the healthcare providers they rely on.
Meanwhile, IVF patients frequently need healthcare financing — and when what’s at stake is the ability to conceive a child, emotions, along with prices, can run sky-high. Because of this, patients seeking in-vitro fertilization are often better served by clinics that don’t outsource their lending — and it’s why patients should understand their providers’ financing arrangements before they even try to secure financing.
With the stakes of starting a family about as high as it gets, IVF patients require as much sensitivity as a practice can muster — and that must extend to the financing piece.
What to look for, and what you get in return
As a result, IVF patients who need financing for treatment should always look for practices that:
- Extend credit in the first place, says personal-finance site Nerd Wallet
- Keep their lending in-house, and strictly between the patient and the practice
The benefits to patients of doing business with IVF clinics that keep their lending in-house through smart new technology include:
- AI-enhanced credit applications that give a fuller picture of you as a borrower than credit scores alone can
- Safety. Your lender may be a medical practice, but it’s still subject to consumer-protection regulations that apply to other lenders
- Security. Healthcare practices that use TurnKey Lender have security safeguards that exceed regulatory requirements and best practices. For example, TurnKey Lender has SOC 2 Type I and SOC 2 Type II level compliance, and the globally-recognized ISO 27001 Certification
- Speed. Applications that used to take weeks to review can be processed in minutes
“Luckily, this isn’t a zero-sum game,” says Ionenko. “In-house lending — made easier than ever by means of cost-effective, intuitive, user-friendly technologies — is also beneficial to healthcare practices, which get a better rate of return on their lending because they set and keep transaction fees, which can be as high as 6%.”
Practitioners who offer in-house tending can also see a significant boost in order value, purchase frequency, and sales conversion, Ionenko adds. “It’s when you get this sort of de facto alliance between patients and healthcare professionals that’s centered on the efficiency of new technologies that new and healthier ways of paying for specialized treatments come into view.”