July 25 marked the 38th anniversary of the birth of Louise Brown, the first baby conceived through in vitro fertilization, or IVF. Almost four decades ago, the field of reproductive endocrinology and fertility care brought new hope and solutions to those having trouble having a baby or staying pregnant.
Since Louise Brown, it's estimated that more than five million babies have been born worldwide through assisted reproductive technology. Over that time, our field has grown by leaps and bounds focusing on both the mind and the body when it comes to treating infertility. Well-validated technologies like comprehensive chromosome screening (CCS) now help support healthier and more successful outcomes and, hopefully, one healthy baby at a time (i.e. fewer multiple deliveries). And a wider range of supportive services are now available to prospective patients from fertility preservation to acupuncture.
Admittedly, the cost of care and risk of failure unfortunately keeps many patients from taking their first steps to overcoming infertility and speaking to a specialist. Only 15 U.S. states have mandated insurance coverage for infertility care which varies greatly and often confusing to grasp as a patient.
While the science and techniques have evolved dramatically for those dealing with infertility, the decision to seek out help often remains a very stressful experience with cost and financial concerns weighing heavily on every decision. I've seen firsthand the emotional and financial hardships all of my patients go through.
Financial risk-share programs have been available in our field for some time in different forms but patient feedback here at RMANJ suggested there was a need for a more comprehensive program with realistic clinical and other eligibility criteria. That feedback spurred the launch of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey (RMANJ)'s CareShare, a 100 percent financial refund program.
Patients meeting clinical and other criteria and guidelines have up to six stimulated IVF cycles and the use of frozen embryo transfer and CCS in order to achieve one successful pregnancy that culminates with the birth of a live baby.
If after all allowed attempts are exhausted and there is no live birth or birth certificate issued, enrolled patients would receive a 100 percent refund of their program fee - truly a "shared risk" between patient and provider. While some patients who are successful on their first attempt will have paid more than a "pay as you go" model, many patients need 2 or more cycles in order to achieve success.
As medical professionals, we strive to not just provide our patients with the most advanced medicine using state-of-the-art technology and procedures - we also strive to make the whole experience a positive one overall.
Fertility medicine has come a long way since Louise Brown to be sure. And while we may never be able to fully alleviate the emotional and financial burdens families face, through programs like CareShare, we can at least try to provide the peace of mind they deserve.