Well + Good: Only 24 Percent of People Who Need Fertility Treatment Can Access It. Gina Bartasi Wants to Change That
July 13, 2020
Well + Good | Erin Magner
December 24, 2019
When Gina Bartasi launched Kindbody in 2018, she already knew a thing or two about the fertility industry. After all, she had previously founded two other startups in the space, and had given birth to twin boys after undergoing IVF. Her main takeaway from all of that in-the-trenches experience? She wanted to do things differently—and if you’ve ever looked into freezing your eggs at Kindbody, you’ll know that Bartasi and her team have more than achieved that goal.
In contrast to the cold, sterile vibe that’s a hallmark of many medical clinics, Kindbody offers its services in stylish digs that look like the “after” shot from an HGTV home makeover show. (The brand currently has flagship offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, plus two mobile clinics, with more brick-and-mortar locations to come in 2020.) Some of its services are also significantly less expensive than its competitors. While egg-freezing traditionally costs around $11,000 per cycle—minus the cost of medication and egg storage—Kindbody charges $6,500. Plus, the brand’s clinics offer a full scope of women’s wellness services under one roof. Along with egg freezing, embryo freezing, and IVF, patients can pop in for general gynecological care, nutrition counseling, and mental health services, with an annual membership priced at just $120 per year.
For Bartasi, Kindbody isn’t just about innovating for innovation’s sake. She’s on a bigger mission to make fertility treatment financially and geographically accessible to anyone who needs it, from those who want to have children later in life to LGBTQ couples and single parents. There’s still a long road ahead (and a very crowded fertility space to compete with), but Bartasi is proud of what Kindbody has achieved in the mere 18 months since its debut. “[Our team is] creating something defining and unique that really reinvents reproductive health,” she says. Here, she shares more about her quest to redefine the fertility experience—and, perhaps, parenthood as we know it.
Well+Good: What were the main fertility-industry issues you were looking to solve when you conceived of Kindbody?
Gina Bartasi: The biggest challenge that we have to solve for is increasing access to care. There’s a study that shows only 24 percent of people who need fertility treatment have access to it. For the other 76 percent of people who cannot get the treatment they want or need, the number-one prohibiting [factor] is price. You can bring down price in the fertility industry, [but] you have to think about reinventing operational efficiencies and utilizing technology to improve the way the clinic operates to be able to do that.
Aside from price, what are some of the other factors blocking people from fertility treatment?
In some cases, it can be geography. There are some states with only one fertility clinic in the entire state. And even when people do have access and want to proceed with treatment and can afford it, the other challenge is that there can be long wait times just to see a fertility doctor. [This is one reason why] Kindbody’s mobile clinics are wildly popular. Instead of you coming to us, we can go one step further and bring the care to you. That’s what we do with these mobile centers, whether it’s the van or the bus. It really is about serving you, the patient, instead of the patient having to come and serve the doctor.
For sure, it has to do with the macroeconomic trends. As more and more people wait to get married, they’re having fertility issues. We know the biological clock is a real thing. When I was going through treatment 10 years ago, I used to think the biological clock declined at the age of 40. We now know the real decline begins at the age of 35. The industry has made it a mission to educate the general population [about fertility declining after 35], so the other big growth you see is in social egg freezing. Those are women who want to preserve their fertility.
I wish I had known that when I was 25, but no one talked about freezing your eggs back then.
The technology that allows for successful egg freezing today didn’t exist 15 years ago. Now, patients know that egg freezing has been clinically validated—the American Society for Reproductive Medicine removed the “experimental” label in 2012, and I think that’s the other thing that’s really contributed to the growth of the fertility industry.
Kindbody recently started offering broader women’s wellness services, such as general OB/GYN visits and mental health. Why did you feel it was important to expand outside of just fertility?
Almost all the decisions we make at Kindbody are driven by the patient. Patients that are in the neighborhood of our Union Square flagship will stop in and say ‘I need my annual well-woman visit’ or ‘Can you take out my IUD?’ That [part of the] business is growing really rapidly. Not only do our patients want a more convenient way to access women’s health care and gynecological services, but we’ve also heard it from large employers over the last three to four years—they want a holistic solution [to offer their staffers]. Patients and employers know that the healthcare system is largely bifurcated. Your mental health specialist is over in this part of town and your gynecologist is over in that part of town and your fertility specialist is somewhere else. It really is about patient demand for convenience.
I was surprised at how affordable the membership is—just $10 a month for gynecological care. Are your services covered by insurance?
We are in-network with all of the large payers here in New York and we are in-network in California with Aetna, but by the end of the year we will be with all of the large payers [in California]. In 2020, we have 17 new [employers] that are rolling out Kindbody as a benefit. [In the future], I think you’re going to see more coverage coming from the large [health insurance] payers and from employers.
On a macro level, how do you feel that expanding access to fertility treatment will create broader positive change for people in general?
Gender parity is my big soapbox. We have a long road to get to parity if we don’t provide women the same reproductive freedom that we do men. Without increased fertility coverage, women [who want children] continue to struggle to get the fertility care they need or they live a life that’s unintentionally child-free. What the “family’ looks like has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and I anticipate it will continue to change. Same-sex couples, single moms by choice—there are all of these audiences within the greater fertility vertical that are now getting bigger just because there’s more access to care. Our mission is to create awareness, to create more accessibility, and to give you the flexibility to have your family how and when you want, instead of having to make sacrifices as women historically have had to make.
In a perfect world, what do you envision the future of fertility and reproductive health looking like in 10 years’ time?
In a perfect situation, the statistic I started with—that only 24 percent of folks who need treatment have access to it—would be 100 percent. I think you’re going to see more and more employers sponsor coverage, and you’ll also see us expanding to other markets. In the next 10 years, we would love for everyone in this country to have access to care.
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