Millennial Money: Managing the high cost of infertility

Millennial Money: Managing the high cost of infertility

By Kelsey Sheehy Of Nerdwallet

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

No one plans for infertility. But that doesn’t stop it from being a reality for millions of people.

In the United States, around 12% of women ages 15 to 44 have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of them turn to in vitro fertilization to try to conceive, with more than 72,000 babies born as a result of IVF and other  “assisted reproductive technologies” in 2017, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Conceiving is just one obstacle these patients face. There’s also the question of how to pay for the treatment.

“The total cost is roughly $20,335 per (IVF) cycle,” says Jake Anderson-Bialis, co-founder of FertilityIQ, which provides research on fertility treatments, doctors and clinics.

Most IVF patients don’t get pregnant the first go-round. Many require multiple cycles, spending $60,000 or more in the process.

The sky-high costs and scant insurance coverage only a handful of states require coverage for fertility treatments, and that coverage varies widely _ leave families struggling to pay on their own.

Arielle Spiegel and her husband had some insurance coverage but still spent roughly $70,000 in fertility treatments, including multiple rounds of IVF.

“Nobody, myself included, is truly prepared for the cost involved,” says Spiegel, founder of CoFertility, which offers tools and resources to help navigate fertility treatment.

DISCUSS YOUR FINANCIAL LIMITS

You want to stay optimistic, but it’s important to think ahead. While your physical and emotional limits can be hard to anticipate, you can sketch a plan for your financial ceiling.

“One of the most important things to talk about at the beginning is, `At what point do we stop?”’ says Dawn Davenport, executive director of Creating a Family, a non-profit focused on adoption and infertility education.  “Continue to reassess. Because at the beginning you don’t have a clue how all-consuming it can be.”

Thinking about what comes next if IVF doesn’t work is painful but necessary, because alternate options like surrogates, donor eggs and adoption are also expensive.

FIND WAYS TO LOWER THE COST

There are several programs that can help you reduce your overall costs, including:

_ GRANTS: Free money for fertility treatment does exist, but it can be hard to track down. You can search for grants and scholarships by state using CoFertility’s Find a Grant tool. Some grant programs also offer donated medical care, rather than cash.

_ DISCOUNTS: Clinics may offer discounted services for low-income patients. Some also extend discounts to people in certain professions, including teachers, members of the military, and police and firefighters.

_ SHARED RISK: Your fertility clinic may offer a shared risk program, which typically offers multiple IVF cycles for a flat rate. This can save you tens of thousands of dollars if it takes multiple IVF cycles for you to conceive.

On the flip side, if you conceive on the first cycle, you still pay the full rate, which is significantly more than a single cycle. And most patients who enrol in these programs conceive from their first egg retrieval, according to data from FertilityIQ.

_ CLINICAL TRIALS: Research studies are typically narrow in scope, making it difficult to qualify. If you do meet the criteria, you’re often able to get treatment at a steep discount. Clinical trials come with inherent risks, so understand all of the details before committing.

EVALUATE YOUR PAYMENT OPTIONS

Spiegel and her husband funded their treatment primarily via savings and budgeting, but that’s not realistic for everyone. Many couples take on debt to pay for some or all of the costs.

Credit cards are one way to pay for treatment, but the average interest rate on a credit card is 16.97%, and some cards charge rates as high as 26.99%, depending on your credit. Those fees add to an already expensive treatment bill if you’re unable to pay your credit card in full each month.

Personal loans are another vehicle to help you pay for IVF. You’ll often find the lowest interest rates via a credit union, even if your credit is a little banged up, but the process can take a bit longer. Online lenders like Prosper and LightStream offer flexible terms and can be funded in as little as a day, but they typically charge high rates for people with a troubled credit history.

Fertility loans are increasingly common, too, with lenders like CapexMD working directly with fertility clinics to help patients finance treatment. While rates may be higher than a traditional personal loan, the lender typically works directly with your fertility clinic, easing some of the hassle and paperwork.

_______________________

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet.

Hospitality workers hit ‘first and hit hardest,’ says union seeking more support

The union representing many of Canada’s hotel and hospitality workers says almost all its 18,000 members face layoffs due to COVID-19, and it wants immediate help for service workers across the country.

Unite Here officials estimate their members and more than 200,000 other service-industry workers will be unemployed as up to 90 per cent of Canada’s hotels are expected to close amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Zailda Chan, president of Unite Here Local 40 in Vancouver, says hospitality workers are primarily immigrants, women, single parents and people of colour, often living paycheque to paycheque.

She says an 80 per cent wage replacement program is needed because newly announced federal supports or employment insurance will not be enough for workers making about $20 per hour.

Ian Robb, an Edmonton-based Canadian director of Unite Here, says the union must also be consulted as governments consider the take over of shuttered hotels to ease the burden on crowded hospitals.

He supports the move to put  “less needy” patients into hotels but says Unite Here wants to be  “part of the conversation” about who will operate the hotels and work in them.

Chan says the union also hopes any bailouts to the hotel and airline industries will include measures to help employees, such as extension of medical benefits.

“Hospitality workers were hit first and hit the hardest,” Chan said during a teleconference, adding they are among the lowest-paid and face a recovery period that could last six months to a year.

“Eighty per cent wage replacement is not just for hospitality workers, it is for all workers. We are highlighting hospitality workers because we represent thousands in that sector, but we think it should be for all workers,” she said.

Unite Here members are employed in six locals across Canada, in hotels, casinos, airports, arenas, universities, schools and remote resource camps, the union said.

Lost your income due to COVID-19? Here’s what to do next

Lost your income due to COVID-19? Here’s what to do next

The excerpted article was written by

Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are losing their jobs as the COVID-19 pandemic causes businesses across the country to shut their doors or cut back on operations.

For many, this may be a new experience. Here’s what to do if you’ve suddenly lost your income, from applying for employment insurance to taking care of your mental health.

Figure out which income support applies to you

The Trudeau government announced a new benefit Wednesday that will provide $2,000 a month for four months to Canadians who have lost their income due to the pandemic, after the government was flooded with applications for employment insurance.

Employment insurance generally doesn’t include self-employed or freelance workers, said Vancouver employment lawyer Andrea Raso. But the new benefit does. So, it’s important to check out both options and decide which one fits your situation before you apply for income support.

“People who are independent contractors or, you know, gig workers, they are typically left out.”

Figure out whether you’ve been laid off or terminated

If you’ve been “laid off” the first thing to do is figure out if the situation is permanent or temporary.

In other words, you need to figure out exactly what the terms of your layoff are. If it’s a temporary layoff, meaning your employer plans to bring you back later, you don’t get severance pay, Raso said.

“What it enables the employer to do is to keep the employees, because most employers in this situation want those employees back,” she said.

However, most provinces have a time cap on these types of layoffs (for example, in Ontario, it’s usually 13 weeks, with some exceptions). If the 13 weeks passes and you’re still not working, your employer has officially terminated you and you should check your contract to see what you are owed.

You also want something in writing stating whether you’ve been temporarily laid off or terminated, said Toronto employment lawyer Andrew Langille — and don’t sign anything without fully reading it, or even having it vetted by an employment lawyer.

“You have to clarify what the employer’s intention is in writing.”

If you have trouble getting termination pay from your former employer, Raso said you can escalate the situation.

“Employees have recourse through their employment standards tribunals, and those are very, very simple to access,” she said. (In Ontario, you can start here.)

Get a record of employment

Raso said the most important document you need from your former employer is a record of employment. Whether you’ve been laid off permanently or temporarily, this document is what will help you apply for employment insurance.

Langille says you should also get your T4 from the previous year, just in case.

Apply for government support, and keep track of your application

Next, it’s time to apply for either EI or the new benefit. There are few details about the new benefit, but when it comes to applying for EI, Raso warned that you will be in charge of keeping track of your application, and that with the higher volume of applicants, the process could take awhile.

Langille said it’s important to make a My Service Canada account so you can track your application using the four-digit code you’ll receive in the mail. You will also be responsible for making reports every two weeks, he said.

The Star Vancouver

Facts about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Ottawa announced Wednesday the Canada Emergency Response Benefit intended to quickly get cash to workers who need it and support their employers. Here’s a look at how the program is going to work.

What is it?

The federal government is proposing a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s intended to be a simpler and more accessible combination of the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.

Who is eligible?

The benefit is to cover Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures. The CERB would apply to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance. It also applies to workers who are still employed, but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situation.

Who shouldn’t apply for the benefit?

If you are currently receiving EI benefits and expect them to continue, don’t apply for CERB. If your EI benefits end before Oct. 3, you can apply for CERB when those EI benefits cease, if you are unable to return to work due to COVID-19. Canadians who are eligible for EI regular and sickness benefits would still be able to access their normal EI benefits, if still unemployed, after the 16-week period covered by the CERB.

What period is covered?

Canadians are to begin receiving their CERB payments within 10 days of application. The CERB would be paid every four weeks and be available from March 15 until Oct. 3, 2020.

How do I apply?

The government plans to have an online portal open by April 6. Applicants will also be able at that time to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number.

Benefit to COVID 19 impacted workers may be model for future

By Jordan Press

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ The newly created benefit for workers whose livelihoods are affected by COVID-19 may be a model for how the federal government helps unemployed Canadians in the future, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said Thursday.

Dubbed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the $2,000-a-month taxable benefit will be available to any worker who earned $5,000 in the previous year and whose income drops to zero due to COVID-19.

Qualtrough says the government opted for the single benefit because the decades-old employment insurance system wasn’t designed to handle an economic shock where millions of workers wouldn’t qualify for assistance.

Funded partially outside the EI system, the new benefit has pushed direct financial aid in the economic package to $52 billion, out of the $107 billion overall total.

Qualtrough said close to 10 per cent of EI-eligible workers have applied for help in just over a week and the labour crunch is likely to get worse.

That works out to approximately 1.5 million workers.

But there are still more than five million workers or almost one-quarter of the overall Canadian workforce who aren’t eligible for EI, including because they may be self-employed, a gig worker, or don’t have enough qualifying hours.

“What we’re going to show through the CERB is that we can actually have a really straightforward income-support system at the federal level,” Qualtrough said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press.

“This could be the impetus to really, radically simplify how people access income support from the federal government.”

That’s a discussion her department has been having for some time, and the pandemic will fuel those talks, she said, but it’s a conversation that won’t be settled quickly.

Instead, Qualtrough said the government is focused on the labour situation right now one she warned would get worse before it improves.

With the benefit about to be introduced, the government warned Thursday of a text scam that may be praying on concerned workers by asking them to reply or click on a link to get the CERB, which isn’t officially available yet.

“I want to remind everyone that the government’s website is the best place to find reliable information on everything we’re doing,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Trying to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus has forced governments to order businesses closed and companies to ask employees to work from home. The uncertainty has many small- and medium-sized businesses wondering if they’ll reopen once the economic storm has passed.

An analysis published Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimated that nearly two millions workers are at the greatest risk of being laid off by the end of the month. If three-quarters of those workers lost their jobs by March 31, the national unemployment rate would rise to 13.9 per cent the worst it’s been in 70 years, wrote David Macdonald, the centre’s senior economist.

The government is urging any worker eligible for EI who loses their job due to COVID-19 to apply now for help. And for those who don’t qualify, Qualtrough said they should sign up for an online account through the Canada Revenue Agency to prepare for the new benefit being made available next month.

To qualify, an affected worker will have to reside in Canada and have earned $5,000 in the previous 12 months  including new parents who earned EI parental benefits _and have had their income dried up because of COVID-19. An online portal is supposed to be up on April 6, with the first automatic payments arriving 10 days after people apply.

Those who receive the benefit will have to reaffirm their eligibility every four weeks.

The benefit will be taxed, like EI payments, and the government will square up any issues during tax time next year.

“If we find out that you weren’t truthful or that you had income you didn’t declare, that will actually be swept up at the back end,” Qualtrough said.

Insurance Continuing Education Options for Remote Licensees

Insurance Continuing Education Options for Remote Licensees

More and more Canadian businesses are asking their employees to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many insurance brokers are now working remotely, and companies are struggling with how to meet the continuing education requirements for this year’s insurance licensing renewal.

Amidst the current inability to conduct or attend in-person seminars or classroom settings, remote online courses are the safest and fastest way to obtain your continuing education credits.

With ILScorp’s flexible online options, it’s easier than ever to access high-quality education that will teach you skills relevant to the insurance industry and meet your mandatory provincial licensing renewal requirements.

ILScorp offers personalized technical and career advancement programs that are 100% online and self-paced. The content is high quality and courses are available in affordable subscription options, plus you can complete them anywhere you have an internet connection on your own schedule.

Getting started is simple.

ILScorp has customized online course subscription options for General, Adjuster, Life, A&S and Financial Planner licensees.

So if you or your entire company are working from home, you can complete your individual insurance CE requirements entirely online.

Group discounts are also available for 3 or more licensees.

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