Could coverage of pricey IVF treatments actually lower costs?

If more insurers provided coverage of expensive in vitro fertilization treatments, the rate of multiple pregnancies would likely decrease, leading to fewer unnecessary complications and lowered overall costs, according to a new Canadian study.

In 2010, Quebec's universal insurance plan began covering all IVF costs and the study found that this additional coverage actually led to lower costs and fewer complications. That's because couples whose health plan covers IVF are more willing to undergo single embryo transfers, almost eliminating the risk of multiple children in one pregnancy.

Pregnancies with more than one child pose a greater risk of preterm birth, which frequently causes many long-term, expensive health problems, including neurological disabilities, thereby stressing the entire healthcare system, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"This confirms what a lot of IVF practitioners have held in the U.S., that with insurance coverage single-embryo transfers are more likely to be done, which is going to lower multiple birth rates which is safer and less expensive," Bradley Van Voorhis, director of the IVF Program at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, told Reuters.

Although many countries, including France, Germany and Denmark, cover at least some IVF treatment, few insurers in the United States do. That makes couples feel pressured to get the most out of each IVF cycle, which costs an average of $12,4000.

"I think it is a desirable trend that more infertility coverage be provided," Van Voorhis said. "This is an encouraging finding that might influence payers to reconsider whether or not they will cover IVF, as they may ultimately benefit by the reduced cost."

To learn more:
- here's the study
- read the Reuters article
- see the Wall Street Journal article