Some companies are cashing in on couples with infertility issues

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Johanna Hernandez of Marana spent big money on in vitro fertilization procedures. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Johanna Hernandez of Marana spent big money on in vitro fertilization procedures. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
It took nine years and $50,000 out of pocket for Kim Etoll of Scottsdale to have a baby. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) It took nine years and $50,000 out of pocket for Kim Etoll of Scottsdale to have a baby. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
"I had Aiden, and whatever I had to go through... it was all worth it," described Hernandez. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) "I had Aiden, and whatever I had to go through... it was all worth it," described Hernandez. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

To a parent, their baby's laughter is one of the sweetest sounds on the planet.

Those sounds of joy are something 34-year-old Johanna Hernandez of Marana and her husband waited five years to hear.

"You just think getting pregnant is such a natural, easy thing. It just happens. And when it doesn't, I was just I was just so confused, and I felt a little broken," shared Hernandez.

In the U.S., about one in 10 women have trouble getting or staying pregnant.

At first, Hernandez says her doctor wasn't too concerned. Her doctor later prescribed Clomid to help with ovulation. 

"It wasn't working and I was getting nervous. Because I think every woman who wants to be a mom, her worst fear is that you can't have a baby," said Hernandez.

That worst fear was confirmed when Hernandez was sent to a specialist. After a sonogram, a technician broke the bad news and her heart, when he said she would never be able to have a baby.

"I was alone at the testing and I just got into my car and I cried," recalls Hernandez. 

Turns out, the technician was wrong.

The specialist started in vitro fertilization.

After two cycles at about $15,000 a pop and two miscarriages, there was no baby and no more money.

"We drained our savings first. I drained my federal retirement. I worked for the federal government for a little while. We sold a car. I got a second job. We crowd-funded and did some fundraising and raised some money that way. All I wanted was a baby and I just didn't know how to make it happen," said Hernandez.

Then Hernandez went to a new clinic that partners with a company called Advanced Reproductive Care, or ARC, that guarantees a baby, or your money back.

ARC offers financing with a select group of fertility doctors for one, two or three in vitro procedures at discounted costs. They even offer a partial refund in some cases, if you get pregnant on the first try.

"When I first heard about it, I was so excited," said Hernandez, who filled out an application and heard back from ARC immediately.  

"Our denial was almost instantaneous. They look through your medical records and they said that we were just too high of a risk," explained Hernandez.

She says she was crushed, but she wouldn't have gotten her hopes up if she knew how selective ARC is, which she acknowledges is no different from any other lending agency that wants to minimize its risk and make money. 

"It's unfortunate that to do that, they have to take advantage of people that are in such a precarious position. I just wish that they would lend to everybody," said Hernandez.

"They are kind of stacking the deck in their favor," says Joan McGregor, a philosophy professor at Arizona State University specializing in bioethics, who admits infertility is big business.

"I am always a little uncomfortable as I think a lot of people are, with putting babies in the same arena as buying cars or other commodities or products," says McGregor.

It's also one of the most vulnerable times in a couple's life -- gambling on a baby when they're so desperate to start a family.

"We want to ensure they are not put in a position where there are a lot of emotions around it and pressure from family members to get pregnant. Where they make choices that are not good ones," explains McGregor.

Conflict of interest, she says, is another consideration. These financing companies stand to make more money if the couple is successful early on.

"They might take greater risks with a particular patient, say transferring more embryos than they otherwise would," explains McGregor.

She says the medical recommendation is to implant only one embryo at a time.

"They might be more incentivized to do two or three or maybe more," McGregor explains.

That was the case for Kim Etoll of Scottsdale.

Two embryos were implanted and one was successful in now 11-month-old Meilee Faith.

"It was a dream come true and still, to this day, I can't believe I'm so lucky to have her," gushes Etoll.

The 40-year-old and her husband waited for Meilee for nearly a decade.

"Four fertility doctors. At least 20 IUI's. Two in vitros. Nine years later, we're blessed with her," describes Etoll.

It was nine years and $50,000 out of pocket. This last time, though, Etoll chose a new doctor who happened to work with ARC. The Etolls applied for help and in this case, were offered three different package deals. 

"One plan was one in vitro. That was roughly $18,000. There was a two-cycle plan. That was, I believe, 28 and then there was a three-cycle plan. I think it was 36 thousand," Etoll described. 

The Etolls picked the second plan because of the money-back guarantee if she got pregnant on the first cycle.

"We did get pregnant on the first in vitro cycle so they gave us $10,000 back," said Etoll.

Etoll says she'd like to give Meilee a sibling and says she would 100 percent go through ARC again. 

"She's not paid off. If we do need to do it again, her sibling, she'll be paid off before her sibling's adventure will come in," explains Etoll.

The Hernandezes are also paying off their bundle of joy. They ended up changing doctors and taking out a high-interest loan on their own for one more try with IVF. This time it worked, bringing their long and painful journey with infertility to an end.

"I had Aiden, and whatever I had to go through, however hard it was, whatever we had to spend, whatever we had to do. Everything. Every shot. Every dime. Every tear. It was all worth it," described Hernandez. 

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