IVF: When Insurance Companies Won't Pay

PHOTO: Brandi and Shelton Koskie built BabyOrBust.com to collect donations for their IVF treatment. They were able to have a child, Paisley, who is now 2 1/2 years old.
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Six years ago, Brandi and Shelton Koskie walked out of an infertility clinic just after learning that they couldn't get pregnant naturally but could pay $20,000 for in-vitro fertilization, which wasn't covered by their insurance.

As they walked across the parking lot, Brandi Koskie started talking about a plan: Build a website, call it BabyOrBust.com, and ask visitors for $1 donations toward IVF.

"By the time we got to the car, it was a done decision," Shelton said. "My wife is one of those people. She comes up with crazy ideas and executes them really well."

Soon, they were being invited to appear on national television and radio shows and raised $7,500 in small donations from all over the world. Through investing and saving money on their own, they reached their $20,000 goal within two years, and had a daughter named Paisley on their first IVF attempt. She's a toddler now.

"People look in all crazy ways to cover their infertility treatments," said Ken Mosesian executive director of the American Fertility Association, a non-profit group.

Since health insurance doesn't cover IVF in most states, couples have to come up with new, aggressive ways to raise money -- and fast, because the more time passes, the less likely a couple is to conceive.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 6.7 million women between the ages of 15 and 45 have fertility issues, which is about 10.9 percent of them. However, only 15 states have laws that require insurance companies to cover infertility treatments, and seven of them specifically exclude IVF, according to the National Infertility Association.

Barbara Collura, the president and CEO of the National Infertility Association, said the hunt for IVF funds has changed drastically in recent years.

Five years ago, many couples might take out second mortgages on their homes and go into debt to pay for IVF, said Mosesian's colleague, Patricia Mendell, a member of the AFA board of directors. Back then, Collura's organization would hold workshops on how hopeful parents could refinance their homes or get personal loans to pay for IVF.

But new economic realities make that much harder.

"Think about how difficult it is now to get credit cards," Collura said. "A lot of things that people could access cash with are either gone or very, very different now."

Instead, people are turning to social media to ask their friends, families and strangers for money, either by building a website or just using a Facebook page. One couple even put a valuable Barry Sanders football card for sale on eBay last week to pay for IVF.

The positive aspect of this is that people are talking about infertility more than ever before, Collura said.

That includes the Koskies, who have been open about Shelton Koskie's birth defect, which prevents his sperm cells from getting to his semen.

"For him, the biggest part was not only that we had become a male factor infertility [case], but that his crazy wife wanted to talk about it on the Internet," Brandi Koskie said.

But he trusted her, he said. They also made BabyOrBust.com about infertility in general, with a whole section about IVF. Now, Brandi and Shelton get one or two letters a day from couples struggling to pay for IVF treatments.

The most interesting one she's heard about: a San Francisco couple that hosted a political-campaign-style dinner, charging guests they invited on Facebook and Twitter $35 a plate.

Things could get easier for parents struggling to pay for IVF, however. A bill called the Family Act of 2011 is making its way through Congress, and it would offer a tax credit to help couples with out-of-pocket costs. Until then, would-be parents will have to keep thinking up new ideas.

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