Is a guaranteed IVF scheme worth the money?

g-080522-hlt-crying-baby-11a.widec-main_FullNothing in life is guaranteed, except its eventual end of course, but we are always a fan of a consumer guarantee, that gives you peace of mind that you are getting value for money. Now, however, an IVF company is offering a guarantee on life itself- if you don’t get pregnant, you get your money back.

Of course, this guarantee isn’t guaranteed, in that they can’t actually promise you will get pregnant, but for the thousands of couples who undertake IVF every year, isn’t the promise of some cash back if you fail some small comfort to spending thousands of pounds and still having nothing to show for it?

The money-back plan works by charging patients a fixed upfront fee for three fresh embryo and unlimited frozen embryo IVF cycles, which they have to pay for in full only if they result in the birth of a live baby. In practice, without a confirmed pregnancy, you pay around 30% of the full cost, meaning you essentially get a 70% refund if the IVF does not work. The catch (because there’s always one) is that 30% of the fixed cost works out at almost double the cost of a single cycle, meaning if you catch first time, you will have paid through the nose.

For example, if you “pay as you go”, a single cycle of IVF might cost around  £5,500, compared with £10,800 upfront through the  guaranteed Access Fertility plan. This means that, if you only needed one cycle of IVF, you would be £5,300 worse off under the guarantee.  However, if you try two cycles of IVF and decide not to carry on, you could get a refund of £7,560 under the guarantee, meaning you spent £3,240 on two attempts, compared with paying £11,000 for two single PAYG attempts.

The guaranteed IVF scheme is open only to women under the age of 38 when they start IVF and who after screening qualify medically.

But why are over 50,000 women a year paying for IVF when they can get it on the NHS? Well, NICE guideline say that the NHS should fund three full IVF cycles to women under 40 who have been trying for at least two years, and one cycle for some women aged 40 to 42. However, over 80% of NHS areas do not adhere to these recommendations, often adding stricter criteria and banning those who already have children, even if that’s step children, and if you live in mid-Essex, for example, you are not entitled to any cycles on the NHS.

So is this guarantee a good idea, or is it just preying on desperate couples? Ash Carroll-Miller of Access Fertility who offer the scheme, thinks not. Funnily enough. “We explain everything at the outset and every client has given us near enough the same response: ‘We won’t care at that point [that we could have paid less] because we’ll have a baby.’ ” Given the success rate of IVF in women aged under 38 is around 30%*, it looks like a reasonable gamble against paying over the odds.

* figures from NHS

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