Many families face large financial hurdles in their quest to obtain fertility treatment. It is not uncommon for a single in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle to range from $15,000 to $30,000. Couples often require multiple cycles for success. Currently, most states do not mandate that insurance companies provide coverage for infertility services. Additionally, for the states which do require that insurers provide infertility coverage, the laws vary widely. Thus, access to infertility treatment is often limited to those with employer-based insurance coverage.
Given these challenges, many families seek alternative ways to obtain IVF coverage. Kelsey Tessier has a remarkable story of dedication and persistence. Unwilling to give up on her dream of motherhood, she found the answer at a familiar place.
The Tessier Family celebrating Christmas. Pictured from left to right: Vanessa, Phineas and Kelsey Tessier.
Kelsey’s story is similar to many others who have struggled with infertility. She met her future wife Vanessa and settled into married life. A couple of years into marriage, Kelsey and Vanessa decided that they wanted to add to their family. Kelsey assumed that there would be no issues with getting pregnant. She began trying to conceive in mid 2018.
For the next eight months, she tried, without success. Kelsey’s treatment included multiple visits with her obstetrician/gynecologist for in-office inseminations. Each month, the couple experienced great hope and anticipation followed by devastating disappointment when subsequent pregnancy tests were negative.
Kelsey discussed the early part of her journey. “While growing up, everyone said how easy it is to have a baby. Parents. Grandparents. Everyone. I was surprised when it wasn’t happening for me.”
Her physician eventually referred her to a fertility specialist. Kelsey went through several more rounds of in-office insemination at the fertility clinic. Unfortunately, each was unsuccessful.
While sitting in her home in the state of Vermont, Kelsey discussed the emotional aspects of her treatment. Looking back on her experience, she noted, “The process is an emotional rollercoaster. There are points which are the highest of the highs, followed by the lowest of the lows.”
The attempts at pregnancy came with a financial cost. Although she had full-time employment, Kelsey’s insurance did not cover fertility treatment. The expenses associated with each attempt at insemination ranged from $400 to $800 dollars, with additional costs for medication and donor sperm. Looking back, she estimates that she spent over $15,000 in one year alone.
At the end, Kelsey felt as if she was facing an uphill battle. A thorough evaluation with her fertility specialist revealed a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which presented a possible explanation for the difficulties with conceiving.
Kelsey recounted, “After each treatment, we met with the fertility specialist to discuss what could have gone wrong.” In the end, her doctor recommended in vitro fertilization.
It was difficult to receive this news. Although both Kelsey and her wife worked full-time, the cost of IVF was a barrier. Kelsey began to research other options for funding. She learned of the different state laws pertaining to insurance coverage of IVF.
She recalled, “At one point, we were considering moving to Massachusetts. This was a huge decision. We learned that some states offer coverage, but it is a big decision to uproot your family and your life.”
While contemplating the move, she visited with another couple who recently had success with IVF. The conversation turned to finances, and Kelsey and Vanessa shared their dilemma.
Kelsey remembers, “They gave us the idea. Our friends stated that they had heard of others obtaining IVF coverage through Starbucks. I wasn’t sure if this was possible, so I decided to find out.”
Her research paid off. She soon confirmed that Starbucks offered IVF coverage as part of its employee benefits package. Kelsey applied for a position at her neighborhood Starbucks and waited anxiously to hear back from the coffee giant. Shortly after, she received a job offer.
There was one more problem. Kelsey had full-time employment with a small company that she loved. She knew that she would be unable to balance both jobs simultaneously.
She shared, “In order to get benefits at Starbucks, I had to work at least 20 hours per week on average. I wasn’t going to be able to balance a full-time job plus 20 hours per week while going through IVF. I decided to have a heart-to-heart talk with my full-time employer. It was a tough conversation.”
Kelsey was touched by the response. Her full-time employer was understanding and compassionate. She noted, “They were amazing. They were flexible and allowed me to cut back on my full-time hours whenever I had a Starbucks shift. I explained the importance of this and was open about what I was going through.”
For the next several months, Kelsey balanced her two jobs, often working seven days a week. At the time of her employment, part-time Starbucks employees were required to work an average of at least 20 hours per week for three full calendar months prior to obtaining eligibility for benefits. She reported, “I was careful to make sure that I was meeting this requirement. If I worked less than 20 hours one week, I worked extra hours the following week.”
Once she received confirmation of her eligibility for Starbucks benefits, it was cause for celebration. She diligently researched plan options and discussed costs with her clinic. In the end, she selected the plan that provided the most coverage for her treatment.
Then the difficult part began. Kelsey started IVF treatment. She balanced working two jobs while administering injections. She recalled, “The hormones have an effect on you. It was hard.”
Following the medication regimen, Kelsey presented for the egg retrieval procedure with hope and anticipation. Upon awakening from the procedure, she was ecstatic to learn that 23 eggs were retrieved. Of these, 11 were fertilized. Four eventually reached the blastocyst stage. The couple elected to proceed with a fresh embryo transfer of a single embryo five days after the retrieval. Unfortunately, the transfer was unsuccessful.
After meeting with her fertility specialist, Kelsey decided to proceed with a second egg retrieval. Once again, she was excited to learn that 26 eggs were retrieved during the second retrieval. Thirteen of these eggs fertilized, and six reached the blastocyst stage. The couple decided to proceed with a fresh transfer of three of the embryos. Heartbreak came once again when the second transfer was unsuccessful.
After consulting with their clinic, the couple decided that a frozen embryo transfer would be the next step. There were three frozen embryos remaining from each of the egg retrievals. In December 2020, two of the frozen embryos were transferred.
The next several days were filled with mixed emotions. The couple finally received the best possible news on Christmas Day 2020. The transfer had been successful. Kelsey was pregnant! The couple’s beloved son Phineas was born in August 2021.
Kelsey relived the ups and downs of her journey while Phineas played nearby. She expressed her deep appreciation for the opportunity that Starbucks provided to her family. The high cost of IVF may have precluded her from the opportunity to obtain care without coverage. Her Starbucks health plan covered most of her treatment, including the two retrievals and three transfers.
When asked about her recommendations for others who are experiencing infertility, she offered sage advice. “Try to find different options. Most importantly, remain open. If you have a specific vision for creating your family, be open to forming your family in another way. Hang on to hope. I was lucky to find Starbucks. I am so grateful for Starbucks and for the opportunity that they provided to me. Infertility is such a difficult journey, but it was all worth it. I have my son.”
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