By David Adamson, M.D., Founder and CEO of ARC Fertility
Unprecedented. Crisis. Life-changing. In the months since the start of the pandemic, we have heard these terms used often when describing the impact of COVID-19. And yet people aren’t exaggerating. The existential threat created by the virus is one that we have never seen before, and it touches on the fundamental ways we function in almost every aspect of society.
For those embarking on their fertility journey, no matter where they are in the process of building their families, there can be a lot of uncertainty. Add a global pandemic to the situation, and the feelings of anxiety over COVID-19’s effect on a person’s fertility treatment can seem overwhelming.
Amid such concerns, there is another concept emerging as we move beyond the first wave of the pandemic: opportunity. Now is the time for patients, clinics, and employers to face issues of financial support together.
According to a poll conducted in mid-March during the onset of the pandemic in North America, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. households experienced a layoff or a reduction in work hours. These losses in income have a ripple effect and, for fertility patients, there are now even greater concerns about affordability and how they can manage the cost of treatments. Where are individuals in their financial life right now? How much do they have in resources? How much debt do they have? These questions provide a foundation for how clinics and doctors can begin to understand their patients’ mindsets against the current uncertainties of the fertility care landscape.
This is also the best time for clinics to engage early on about fertility treatment financing. The one critical mistake that fertility practices make is assuming that patients can afford the treatments that they need. So, conversations about financing have traditionally occurred further down in the fertility journey after the initial consultation and presentation of treatment options. But the current focus on personal financial outlooks means that having an upfront discussion about financing can make the difference between whether a patient continues care with a particular clinic or not.
Conversations about paying for fertility treatments should be framed in terms of solutions. There are a range of programs available, particularly for employers and their employees, that can be tailored to make the process of having a baby as cost effective as possible. Every patient has specific needs, and different lending companies have varying criteria for whether someone is approved for a loan or not. Terms can be anywhere from two to eight years, the total amount loaned can range from under $10,000 to over $50,000, and interest rates can be anywhere from four to 20 percent.
Patients drop out of fertility care for many reasons. These can include emotional stress or a poor prognosis, but most often, they decide not to continue their treatments because of affordability issues. With many couples feeling the pressures of reduced incomes right now, and with fertility care still in demand, the real question becomes: what can practices and employers do to support individuals during a time of economic crisis? Employers can ease employees’ financial burdens with subsidies. They can also choose fertility benefits plan providers like ARC Fertility, which offers flexible solutions that fit in seamlessly with existing carriers or work as standalone services. By engaging early with patients and offering targeted solutions to manage costs, clinics can tackle post-COVID challenges by providing comprehensive support for their patients.
Dr. G. David Adamson MD, FRCSC, FACOG, FACS, is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of ARC Fertility. He is a globally recognized reproductive endocrinologist and surgeon, and is a Clinical Professor, ACF at Stanford University and Associate Clinical Professor at UCSF. Dr. Adamson also serves as the current Chair of the International Committee Monitoring ART (ICMART), a WHO NSA/NGO.