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A single IVF treatment costs $12,000 to $17,000, according to the American Pregnancy Association. If the first treatment fails, many women can't afford to try again, Jungheim's team said.
The study included nearly 1,600 IVF patients at the university's Fertility and Reproductive Medicine Center, between 2001 and 2010. Of those women, 56 percent had insurance that covered IVF. The others paid for the treatment themselves.
Women with IVF coverage were slightly younger than those without. Seven out of 10 who had insurance coverage returned for a second IVF treatment if the first one failed, the findings showed.
The average chance of having a baby after up to four IVF attempts was 59 percent for women with IVF coverage and 51 percent for those without coverage -- a statistically significant difference, the researchers said.
"The difference is that women with coverage were more likely to come back and try again if they were initially unsuccessful," said Jungheim, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology.
"Given that they had the ability to try more times, they had a higher chance of giving birth," she said in a university news release.
The finding "highlights the importance of health insurance in the outcome of fertility treatments," Jungheim added.
IVF is a series of procedures in which eggs are removed from a woman's ovary and fertilized with a man's sperm in the laboratory. The fertilized egg (embryo) is then returned to the woman's uterus.
Success rates for one IVF procedure range from more than 40 percent for women younger than 35 years of age, to about 15 percent for women older than 40, the study authors said.
In the United States, Jungheim said, just five states mandate IVF insurance coverage: Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
The study was published March 28 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
-- Robert Preidt
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