In the US, we pride ourselves on the American dream of working hard and earning based on our merit. Our economy today, however, shows that many people who work hard are earning less and are not as well off as their parents. Truth be told, the real old fashioned way of earning money still works – inherit it. In addition to younger generations earning less, another difference that is becoming more evident is when having babies the old fashioned way doesn’t work either.  People are now turning to their parents to pay for infertility treatment.

The Future Grandparents Club

In vitro fertilization (IVF), which now accounts for a percentage of births in the US, is becoming more common. However, its affordability is not. The average out of pocket expenses for a round of IVF exceeds $24,000 and the average spent on treatment over all exceeds $60,000. So where are people turning to get this kind of cash to fund their IVF? Hopeful grandparents. 

One of the remaining stigmas of infertility is that it is mostly older wealthier women who are likely to have infertility treatment. However,  at least half of the women seeking IVF are under 35. Infertility has many causes. Hasidah has had clients facing PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), premature ovarian failure (at age 27), genetic diseases, cancer, recurrent pregnancy loss, and one of the most frustrating situations, unexplained infertility. Infertility affects young and more mature, rich and poor alike.

What’s A Parent to Do?

Hopeful grandparents seem motivated regardless of the situation. When it is a late bloomer, they want to help. When the couple is young or maybe doesn’t have any savings yet, the future grandparents are often there. One hopeful grandparent called Hasidah for help because she had already dipped into her retirement savings to help her daughter and still wanted to find additional ways to help. Not all parents have the financial capacity to help their children, and not all children are comfortable or able to turn to their parents. However, the vast majority of people Hasidah has seen that have spoken to their parents get some funding from them. When it is their own child looking for help to have the same blessing of having a child, it is a pretty sensitive heart string to pull.

To be sure, funding from grandparents has it draw backs. It is complicated to have financial ties to family members and IVF has no guarantee. However, one thing is for sure. More and more grandparents are going to have earned their title the new old fashioned way. They will have paid for it. 

Check out this article in Fast Company for more about IVF funding from grandparents featuring Rabbi Idit Solomon.

 

 

 

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#IVFContests #IVFAwareness #BuildJewish Families

Another group held a video conference for a free IVF. This was a new twist however, because the host of the contest was a radio station in Utah. The ends of the contest – the chance for someone without the financial means to be able to receive treatment that may lead to having a baby – is a wonderful goal. An important question is if those ends justify the means.

Unlike most coverage of these contests, a recent article reporting about this contest shared both sides of this story. The pro’s include building awareness about infertility, the emotional and financial costs that it takes, and providing someone with treatment. It may also help people speak out and get support they may not have otherwise received.

The con’s are another story.  “Asking couples to create a video for a radio station about raw, difficult experiences can feel like making entertainment out of someone’s misery” said one contributor to the story. Another shared that the contest is, “ a very offhand or casual way to deal with something that we generally view as being a more serious issue.” Indeed.

The public votes on the videos submitted by the finalist for the radio station contest. Imagine you are applying for this and were told you were a finalist. Do you make your story the saddest? Do you show yourself as the most hopeful? The most desperate? Do you need good production values? Do you have others speak for you? Should you be funny? How do you get people to vote for your video? Whatever the criteria for earning IVF treatment, it seems as much a reflection of how to use publicity to show yourself as deserving treatment.  And that is a problem. Someone deserves treatment more than others? Someone’s story is more compelling? Or is it a popularity contest with extremely high stakes? None of the answers are good.

Another con is that these contests overshadow an underlying issue of why the treatment is not funded in the first place. The insurance industry is not taking on this issue and the idea that it is expensive is not a legitimate answer. Cancer treatment is not cheap. Neither is a mastectomy, cataract surgery, diabetes treatment or treatments for accidents and traumas. We ought to be asking more challenging questions about why treatment for infertility like IVF is not available and affordable.

For Hasidah, these issues are not taken lightly. The medical appropriateness, financial need, and personal information are taken seriously to ensure the best possibility of building a Jewish family. Hasidah grant applicants take a significant amount of time and effort to apply which often is not rewarded with funding. We try to honor that with continual efforts to build awareness, to treat our clients with the utmost respect and not make a spectacle of their experiences.

If there was a contest to be held, perhaps it ought to be finding the most effective strategy for making IVF affordable and making insurance coverage for it part of standard health insurance. That would be the mother of all contests.

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Does your income potentially affect the chances that you will access treatment for infertility. In an already much cited article, the answer was a resounding yes. Education plays a role too. People with a college degree are more than twice as likely (11.6 vs 5) to access fertility treatment with those who do not have a high school diploma.

The infertilty sword cuts both ways because those with less education are likely to earn less and be able to afford less and therefore be less likely to seek treatment. And while this recent study does not tie education to infertility, research has shown that people with higher levels of education are more likely to have children later and therefore have higher rates of infertility. Basically, we can’t get around it.

One thing this study of treatment access cannot account for is who is seeking the treatment and the effects of not getting treatment. In other words – the reality that some people really want to have a child and want to pursue treatment vs others who may not feel as strongly about having  child. For Jews, being part of a pro-natal and family oriented community can increase pressure and isolation that infertility causes and make the desire to seek treatment higher.

At Hasidah, we know well the variety of ways in which one can experience infertility – from genetic diseases, to cancer, to age, to low ovarian reserves or sperm, to unexplained infertility. The people seeking help from Hasidah have earned from $25,000 to over $350,000. They are married, single, LGBT, older, younger, teachers, singers, lawyers and doctors. They all want to have a Jewish family.

The study shows for sure that the infertility rate is 12.5%. That’s about 1 in 8. That number only increases with age and body mass index. And Jews are no exception.

Infertility is not likely to change, but our response to it can.
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Hasidah’s name which means “stork” comes from the Hebrew word hesed, which means loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is showing support when people need it in the way they need it. Loving-kindness is maintaining their dignity while they are in need and in the process of helping them. Loving-kindness is helping them without making them beg for it. 

Every one of these baby crowd funding campaigns is a lost opportunity for the Jewish community to show loving-kindness, something we do so well for many other circumstances. Wanting to have a child is a basic desire that most of us understand without much explanation. Yet, we let people beg: Help me fund a chance to have a baby!

Thanks to the Forward for highlighting this issue. Let us know what you think – if the Jewish community will spend billions on trips to Israel in the name of the birthright, how can we direct support for the birthrate?

 

 

 

 

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Just hosted the National Jewish Fertility Network video conference about adoption. Experts represented an amazing array of approaches – adoption agency, adoption support, law firm, and Jewish adoption advocacy. Indeed adoption is a very Jewish and beautiful pathway to parenthood. These experts helped educate Hasidah and others in the Jewish community supporting family building. We learned more about the benefits, issues, and challenges of adoption as well as how to support those considering adoption.

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Pack your bags! Is it the beach, the mountains, the slopes, the amusement park, or the ranch? Maybe the spa? How about the clinic…

More and more people are traveling to seek medical treatment and infertility is no exception at all. Someone recently asked us about infertility in the US and around the world and how much travel people do for treatment. Considering there is no international data collection, it is difficult to answer. However, a recent article came out exploring that very question. Here are some facts about ReproTourism around the world.

  • Belgium – first for their invention of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) which helped address male factors
  • Spain – best country for egg donation
  • Latin America – two major hubs for tourism
  • India – over 500 clinics (but debatable hub for surrogacy now)

Another trend is that medical tourism used to be from poorer regions to wealthier countries. ReproTravel is often the opposite. Treatment has become much easier and costs in less developed countries make it attractive.

Biggest reason for travel besides costs? Friendlier legislation. You can only have a treatment if the procedure is legal.

See the full article.

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Many options fill the list of concerns for people facing infertility: emotional stability, how to choose treatment, which doctor to choose, social pressure, spiritual crisis, stigma, fear treatment will not work, physical effects of treatment, marital issues, balancing work with treatment, and of course how to pay for the treatment. All of these are very significant, but one of them in particular exacerbates the others in a unique way. A recent study found that the biggest concern is cost.

Cost Concern

Fertility Treatments in the United States: Sentiment, Costs and Financial Impact. May 2015, MarketCube sponsored by Prosper.

Not only did costs top the lists of concerns (84%), for those “very concerned” it topped the list by over 15% to the next option of handling the treatments emotionally (62% vs 45%).  Cost tops the list for the reason people delay treatment (82%) and remains on top of the list of concerns even once treatment has started (70%). Costs top the list of concerns all around.

The irony of this is that for many people, addressing infertility is one of the hardest challenges facing us in our adult lives. To be sure, life can dish out some bad challenges. For most, however, infertility is completely unprecedented. For other issues, perhaps we have thought about them, we can prepare to address them, we can see a logic even if we don’t agree, we can give a good fight and feel better about it. In the case of infertility we often  feel out of control, unprepared, and simply at a loss. It lasts with no known ending. The stress of infertility has even been compared to the levels of stress when facing cancer. Yet the cost of treatment is cited as a bigger concern than the emotional toll.

To truly address the communal issue of infertility, we do need to address most if not all of these concerns – the emotions, the spiritual crisis, the marital issues, the stigma, the everything. When Hasidah was founded however, the basic premise was that the Jewish community spends millions and millions of dollars helping kids be Jewish. Of all the things standing in the way to having a Jewish child,  financial barriers ought to be something we can remove. We can do it.

The emotions will not go away if treatment is financially out of reach. The decisions are made for us if the options are not affordable. For sure we need to address the difficult emotions and decisions. However, if we are going to start at the top of what is concerning people experiencing infertility, then address the costs.

 

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