Julie Barth, was over the moon when her doctor told her she might be able to get pregnant via IVF. But the Illinois doctor didn’t stop there – he referred her to a “fertility finance” company which lent her (US) $5,000 at an interest rate of 7.99% to help pay for the $24,000 procedure. The case reveals a new trend in the commercialization of fertility.
Her daughter, Olivia, was born around a year later. “You can’t put a price on a smile like that,” says Ms. Barth, 32. She hopes to pay off her loan from the Massachusetts-based Springstone Financial LLC by 2014. In a period in which traditional lenders are struggling, firms that ally with doctors to provide loans for IVF, egg harvesting and other fertility treatments say business is booming.
One reason for this is fertility-finance companies are profiting from the banking industry’s difficulties. For example, credit is currently tight for home-equity loans and credit cards, two ways couples have often paid for fertility treatments that often exceed $20,000. Springstone president Mike Gilroy says his business is thriving because “if the time is right” to have a baby, “people want loans even in a sluggish economy.” As the economy struggles, companies in the business predict that lending will grow with demand from couples desperate to have a baby – but who cannot afford fertility treatments on their own.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a trade group which represents fertility doctors, has no policy on the doctors making the loans. Fertility finance is “pretty much a recession-proof business, since the biological clock doesn’t stop,” according to Doug Weiss, of IntegraMed America Inc., a fertility-clinic operator based in New York. “It’s a valuable program which patients love,” Mr. Weiss says. “The criticism doesn’t take into account the need of many patients who very well might not get pregnant on the first round.”