The Surrogacy Base Fee: How Does it Work? by Sharon LaMothe
This has been slightly updated but some of the information may be out of date. It is to give you some perspective but not designed to be a hard and fast guideline. GSA
Once Intended Parents start the search for a surrogate mother, whether its in an independent situation or through an agency setting, they will soon come acrossed the phrase "base fee". What is this fee for? Who sets these fees? Isn't it the same as 'paying' a surrogate? Why is the word compensation used?
Let me illuminate you on the "base fee factors". In general, a base fee is to cover the 9 months or 40 weeks your surrogate will be pregnant with your child/children. It is very rare for any of the base fee monies to be distributed before you see a heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. The base fee is commonly broken down into monthly payments, however these are not equal monthly installments. Lets use a fee of $20,000. The breakdown may look like this:
Month one: $1,500
Month two: $1,500
Month three: $2,000
Month four: $2,000
Month five: $2,000
Month six: $2,500
Month seven: $2,500
Month eight: $3,000
Month nine: $3,000
These fees are usually strategically set up like this in a contract because there are so many times that a miscarriage can happen in the first couple of months of an IVF cycle. This way the Intended Parents are not out a huge amount of money and the surrogate is compensated for the time that she actually did carry.
Lets remember that babies are born on their own time table and so if a baby or babies are born early the amount that is left over is put into one last check and given to the surrogate with in 14 days after the birth or whatever is stated in the contract. In the case of multiples an extra amount is often added from month 5-9.
So who sets these fees? Good question! Basically attorneys and agencies know state by state what those judges will tolerate regarding a surrogacy fee. This is why you don't see women being surrogates and charging $100,000! If a judge sees an amazingly large amount of money in a contract that fact alone will raise the following questions: "Was this woman coerced?, Is she selling her body?, Is she selling a baby?" This is why the base fee is labeled compensation or reimbursement or even living expenses. Surrogate mothers are supposed to be carrying a child not to make money but instead for altruistic reasons. Any money involved is to support them throughout the process. The point is that no money should be coming out of the surrogates family budget to support her while she is a surrogate mother.
The average base fees being asked for by agencies for their surrogates looks something like this:
First time surrogate with her own health insurance: $18,000-$25,000
First time surrogate without her own health insurance: $13,000-$20,000
Second time surrogate with her own health insurance: $25,000-$35,000
Second time surrogate without her own health insurance: $20,000-$28,000
Third and forth time surrogates with health insurance can command anything up to $55,000 and those without $35,000 or more.
Yes, there are some variations but this configuration is the most common. Insurance companies are adding surrogacy exclusions each time they print up a new policy! They feel that if money is being exchanged then their policy shouldn't be used as a bargaining chip. If a surrogate is on medicaid then she can not, under any circumstances, use government insurance! This is FRAUD and is punishable by the law. Surrogates without insurance need to be insured ASAP through one of the few companies that have policy especially for those involved in third party reproduction or family building. New Life is one of those agencies. Needless to say these are very expensive policies which is why an uninsured surrogate is compensated less then those who carry their own health insurance policies with maternity coverage.