Wednesday, May 18, 2011

UCSD online IVF cost calculator

The UCSD Fertility Center announced the availability of their online IVF cost calculator yesterday. The press release speaks to the common problem of fertility patients being surprised by the true cost of IVF treatment. Often only the nominal cycle cost is mentioned but there are also precycle evaluation costs and many times addons to the nominal cycle that also add cost.

The IVF calculator can be found at this link. It looks like they did a good job with it. It is easy to use and it leads you through a number of optional choices that you may have not considered. If some of them are unfamiliar to you then you can do some research to determine if an additional procedure is likely and then come back to select whether you not to include it in the cost estimate.

I ran what might be considered a typical case and the IVF calculator estimated costs of $1,500 for medication, $2,070 for precycle evaluation, and $9,810 for the cycle. Costs are broken down well so you see the major items. On this blog I am focused on comparing IVF costs domestically with what is available overseas for those readers who might be considering the niche of medical tourism now being called fertility tourism. So I compared the cost breakdown from the calculator to ivf costs published in the patient handbook from Jetanin Hospital in Bangkok. Now, I must say that those costs are several years old and I know they have increased if for no other reason than the steep decline in the strength of the U.S. dollar against the Thai baht. But there were a couple of items that stood out.

Medication cost from the UCSD IVF calculator was estimated at $1,500 which is quite a bit less than the $2,500 to $4,500 that Jetanin estimated. That one has me wondering because the medication cost is primarily the expensive hormonal medications that everybody buys from the same providers. So what has happened? Perhaps cost of the drugs has decreased in recent years? Or is Jetanin assuming more than one cycle? That might be it. I really don't know but if we take the calculator number and Jetanin number as is then that swings the cost advantage toward domestic IVF fairly strongly, at least until we consider the other costs.

Looking at precycle and cycle costs we see that semen analysis is $125 (U.S.) versus $30 (Thailand), semen culture $135 versus $50, basic cycle is $8600 versus $1250, blastocyst transfer is $630 versus $350. One thing not itemized in the Jetanin cost is anesthesia so maybe that should be added. But even if we add the full U.S. anesthesia cost of $580 to the basic cycle the cycle cost is still $9810 in the U.S. versus $2180 at Jetanin.

So if one were to take a guess about how much costs have risen in Thailand and how IVF treatment here today would compare to that in the U.S. I think they would come to the same conclusion as in the past, that it is about one-third the cost. At over $13,000 for pre-cycle plus one cycle in the U.S. you are probably looking at saving around $8,000 to start with and about $6,000 on every cycle after that. That more than pays for your transportation and hotel costs if you are coming from another country.

Of course, you would need to do an updated comparison of costs no matter where you were considering getting IVF treatment. But this IVF calculator from UCSD does look like a good tool.