A very expensive form of insurance
Is egg freezing for social reasons cost-effective? An Israeli IVF specialist argues in Reproductive Biomedicine Online that while egg freezing is here to stay, few patients and doctors are asking hard questions about its cost, especially in the face of demands that governments support large-scale “fertility preservation” programmes.
Zion Ben-Rafael says that research suggests that social egg freezing is “only cost-effective with a usage rate of 50% or over, and when getting married is not set as a condition”. However, recent studies have found that the rate of using frozen eggs is between 3.1 and 9.3%. This prices the cost of “each extra live birth between US$600,000 and 1,000,000.
“As IVF is being privatized and business-driven, it is hard for experts to decipher scientific- from business-oriented claims,” he writes. “The fact that the sales agents of SOF are the same doctors who carry out the procedure and benefit financially carries a potential conflict of interest.”
He describes social egg freezing as a kind of insurance:
“where the full cost of the procedure must be paid upfront. Only those who have ‘bought’ the full insurance ‘not too early and not too late’ will have a chance of benefitting from its potential at a better cost. Early freezing is associated with higher success but lower usage percentage and lower cost-effectiveness and vice versa. Also, differences in social practices, such as women who attempt pregnancy only if married or after finding a known partner, might be a barrier as age advances. From a medical perspective, the woman ‘buys’ time and a sense of security; statistics shows that at an advanced age, the chances of marriage are slim. Hence, egg freezing and waiting to get married are somewhat contradictory, and such delay proves detrimental to the chances of ever using the eggs, thus decreasing the cost-effectiveness of the procedure. Understandably, some have dubbed SOF as a ‘lottery’.”
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