Conception or cash-back: Houston-based company insures a birth for couples struggling with fertility

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- There's no joy quite like becoming a parent. Yet for some, it's just not as easy on relying on the birds and the bees.

"I just had kind of an easy expectation that it was just something you try. It happens and it's the next step of life and you move on," said Jennifer Carmouche as she played with multi-colored blocks with her son on the floor.

After two years of trying for a baby, Jennifer and her husband Eric were stunned.

"I definitely thought I'd be done having children by the time I was 30 and so it was definitely a surprise," said Carmouche.

While medications and other therapies help some couples get pregnant, Jennifer and Eric had to opt for in-vitro fertilization, or IVF. In total, it took five rounds of IVF for the couple to have their son, Kline, and get pregnant again, this time with twins.

In total, the Carmouches estimate they've spent upwards of $50,000. And that's just it, IVF isn't cheap and it doesn't always work.

"It's when you spend thousands of thousands of dollars and you still don't have a baby - that's when it's really devastating," said Allison Meier Madrigal, founder and CEO of Houston-based Vitality Solutions.

The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology said a single round of IVF can cost between $10,000 and $15,000. Madrigal knows that's a price tag that isn't doable for every couple.

"I mean, we've heard of people taking out second mortgages on their homes, selling their land and farm inheritance to try this attempt of having a baby," she said.

She began her company Vitality Solutions in 2012 after watching her brother and sister-in-law struggle to have their children. The concept behind the company: Pay an up-front, one-time fee, averaging around a few thousand dollars depending on your overall health, pay out the costs of your IVF treatment and insure your fertility without going into big time debt.

"We all go through journeys and life's ups and downs, but you know, at the end of your journey, after three attempts of IVF, you're going to have a baby or you're going to have your money back," said Madrigal, explaining how the "three tries and then your cash-back" policy works.

Fertility insurance might sound like a new concept, but doctors have talked about it for years.

"This has been discussed. If it's mathematically, ethically appropriate and most people really feel that it is appropriate, if you are fully transparent about exactly what people are doing going into it," said Dr. Timothy Hickman, medical director at Houston IVF and director of the Reproductive Endocrinology division at Houston Methodist Hospital.

Dr. Hickman points out fertility insurance similar to Madrigal's policy might not benefit everyone.

"So just like (traditional) insurance would be trying to pick out the healthiest people and they'll insure them. They're going to try and pick out those that have the highest prognosis to get pregnant," Hickman said.

If you're struggling with fertility and also struggling to find a way to pay for treatments, Hickman suggests using a mail-order, FDA-approved pharmacy for medications.

The medications related to IVF can account for up to a third of the total cost of a round of IVF. Mail order medications are sometimes cheaper. You can also find out if you fall into a group with favored pricing.

Some clinics offer comprehensive coverage for veterans and patients looking to preserve their fertility because they are being treated for cancer. Finally, check with the CDC to see your fertility clinic's success rate. A particular clinic may be cheaper but may not produce as many babies.

In the state of Texas, insurance companies are required to offer an insurance plan that covers fertility treatments but that does not necessarily mean your employer will offer that plan to you.

For some, becoming parents is no easy process and but for many it comes with an overwhelming price tag.

RELATED: Companies that offer employer-sponsored fertility benefits
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