With our current healthcare system here in the US, IVF is often out of pocket and very expensive. Also in my groups I see people who don’t have access to doctors in their country or who are denied treatment for one reason or another. I thought about trying to cycle out of the country but the idea seemed overwhelming to me, when fertility treatments can already be overwhelming as is. There are services out there that make it easier. Ever heard of a medical concierge? I hadn’t.
I reached out to Oana Gharbi, co-founder of Medical Concierge France to understand more about what these services can do for those seeking treatments away from home.
What are the reasons someone may travel out of their country for IVF?
Depending on where you are coming from, the reasons differ.
Americans choose to do IVF abroad most often for financial reasons. Stats say up to 70% of American infertile couples have to pay for IVF out of pocket. British women travel abroad for IVF because the NHS can have a long waiting list, it covers IVF only if you have never had any kids, and many other sorts of requirements. Private clinics in the UK have very high prices. Here in France, women benefit from 4 covered IVF and 6 covered IUI, but things like age limits, marriage requirements, being in a same sex relationship or requiring or desiring PGS testing may mean they need to go outside of the country. French women are the luckiest: they benefit from 4 IVF and 6 IUI cycles completely free, meds included, up to the age of 43, no waiting list. Unless they are unmarried, or in a same sex relationship, or they require PGS testing.
What is the benefit for using a medical concierge?
Infertility is strenuous as it is. Having to deal with the logistics of organising a trip abroad to do IVF doesn’t take any of the stress away, On the contrary! A medical concierge service takes care of all the little details that help to make your trip as uneventful as possible and helps you focus on what matters most: your cycle, your body, your future pregnancy.
What services does the medical concierge provide?
From looking up the best transport options, to offering you special rates to partner (3, 4 or 5*) hotels, translating your medical records and picking you up from the airport, a medical concierge takes care of everything for you. The services are customized and aimed to provide you with a stress-free medical experience. We accompany you to your medical appointments and we keep in touch with the medical staff on your behalf if you wish. We provide tips for spending your free time, arrange bookings at restaurants, spas, beauty saloons, shopping.
Can the medical concierge handle bookings for lodging?
Yes, we have contracts with hotels offering us special rates and upgrades, and with short term rental agencies so we can find the best accommodation for you.
How much does it cost and how do the fees work?
Our standard rate is 10% of your total medical bill. For an example, an IVF cycle at the American Hospital in Paris, meds included, would be around 7000 Euros assuming you are a medium to high med protocol, and our fee would then be 700 Euros. Translation services and chauffeured drives though are to be payed separately, priced by request.
IVF can be unpredictable, what happens if my cycle is canceled or I need to stay longer than planned?
There are various options. You may decide to do the monitoring at home in the US and come only for retrieval and transfer, in which case you will have to make a short trip overseas before starting your cycle so that you can come pick up your meds (prescription meds cannot be shipped to US and yes, the cost savings is substantial even with a plane ticket. One 900ui Gonal F pen costs a little over 300 euros in France versus up to 900 USD out of pocket in US. You may need to use up to 7 pens in one cycle, depending on the kind of protocol you choose to do.
If you decide to spend 3 weeks in Europe for an IVF cycle and make a vacation out of it, should your cycle be cancelled you may decide to go back home earlier. We always advise our patients to make sure their plane tickets can be exchanged. As for the lodging, we assist you with the bookings and make sure cancellation options are very clear before you sign the contract. Again, you only pay us the agency fee. All the other payments go directly to third parties we put you in contact with.
What other types of medical services does your service help with?
We facilitate access to affordable healthcare in top notch facilities. We guarantee 48 hour appointments for every specialty. We have several fixed priced packages, including our Second Medical Opinion package. For 450 euros, we make an appointment for you at a top specialist, we present your case, we skype during the consultation to assist you with asking the questions you need answered, with us acting as translators and mediators. We provide you with a complete medical report with the doctor’s opinion and recommendations. All this from the comfort of your home, no traveling, no hassle.
To speak directly to Oana, you can find her at https://www.medicalconciergefrance.com/
So there you have it. We know that IVF works first time for only 35% or so of couples so thinking outside of the box to find affordable options can be key. Travel isn’t so daunting when you have a personalized translator and assistant walking you through the process. My cycling days are over, but thanks to my kids I may need to use this service for some sprucing up of the body!
Have you cycled out of the country? Would love to hear experiences and recommendations in the comments.