What Are IVF Refund (or Shared Risk) Programs?

Weighing the Pros and Cons of IVF Shared Risk Finance Programs

Man holds out his empty pocket
Will you be left with nothing after IVF? An IVF refund program may return at least some cash back into your pockets. User playboy / Stock.xchng

IVF refund programs offer the possibility of a full or partial refund if IVF treatment is not successful. These programs are sometimes called IVF shared risk, because the clinic is also taking a risk that they will need to return some or all of the money.

Usually, an IVF refund package will ask for a flat fee for three to six cycles of IVF, though there are programs that offer a partial refund after just one cycle.

The flat fee is usually less than you’d pay if you were paying for each cycle individually. However, if you conceive after just one or even two cycles, you may pay more overall than you would have if you paid for one cycle at a time.

The refund programs are sometimes run by clinics themselves, and other times handled by an outside financial agency, which then provides the financing via associated fertility clinics.

Qualifying for an IVF Refund Program

Not just anyone can sign up for an IVF refund program. Every program has different qualifications, and they are unlikely to accept your application if your chances for success are low.

For example, many programs don’t allow women over 40 to participate. Others have a lower cut off, as young as 38. Also, if you have already gone through a number of failed IVF cycles, you may not qualify for a refund program.

Some programs offer donor egg refund programs, which could be an option for women 40 and up.

But even for those programs, you need to meet qualifications to participate.

What’s the Catch?

IVF refund programs sound so great. If you don’t succeed, you get your money back! So… what’s the catch? Why would IVF clinics or financial programs offer a deal like this?

The fact of the matter is that since the offer is only given to couples with good chances for success, most will conceive before they use up their three or six already paid cycles.

For those that conceive quickly, they will pay much more than if they had paid for the cycles individually.

Also, it’s important to realize that even with “full refund” programs, you’re not really getting all of your money back.

This is important to keep in mind when looking at the quoted fee for an IVF refund program. You really need more cash than just that price, and those additional fees will not be refunded.

Fees that go above the IVF refund program itself, and which may or may not be covered, include:

  • Pre-screening procedures, including blood work, semen analysis, and uterine assessment
  • Monitoring costs, including office visits, blood work, and ultrasounds
  • The cost of fertility drugs, which can be in the several thousands of dollars
  • Anesthesia for egg retrieval
  • Fees for beyond-the-basics IVF procedures, like assisted hatching, ICSI, blastocyst culture, cryopreservation
  • If using an egg donor or surrogate, agency and legal fees
  • Embryo storage fees

Some IVF refund programs cover some of the fees above, but be sure to ask for a detailed explanation of what is and isn’t covered before you sign up.

Important note: Be sure the IVF refund program defines success as taking home a live baby. Some programs consider success a positive pregnancy test, or a pregnancy that reaches a certain number of weeks.

This means if you miscarry, no refund. If you conceive your first cycle, this is a tremendous financial loss. This risk is almost never worth taking.

Why Sign Up?

Despite all these downsides, there are still good reasons to sign up for an IVF refund program.

For one, if you don’t succeed, at least you will get some of your money back. This may allow you to pursue adoption, or at least pay off some of the debts you acquired while trying to get pregnant.

Another reason couples sign up is for the peace of mind. They realize they may pay more per cycle than if they had gone one cycle at a time, but they feel better knowing that if they don’t succeed, they won’t be completely left for broke.

Also, because refund programs usually require you to participate in a set number of cycles to get the refund, your odds of giving up or dropping out of the program are lower.

For example, even if you feel like giving up after failed cycle number two, you may push on for the third since you don't want to lose your chance for a refund. And that third cycle may be the one that works for you.

More on affording fertility treatment costs:

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Adamson, David. “Money-back IVF guarantees: weighing the pros and cons.” Contemporary OB/GYN. May 2004. http://www.arcfertility.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/COG1-69-05e.pdf