Evolving Surrogate Base Compensation

February 8, 2017 by Frank Golden

pile of american dollar bills.

With the first successful gestational surrogate pregnancy, having been roughly 40 years ago, surrogacy as a family building method remains a relatively new concept in the medical field. Regardless of this fact, the demand is quite large. About 750 babies are born each year using gestational surrogacy. As I mentioned in my last podcast, our Intended Parent inquiries have been through the roof and we have onboarded quite a few Intended Parents since the new year. We are given the privileged task of recruiting the perfect Surrogate for them, but also trusted to ensure the Surrogate’s compensation is fair and reasonable for all parties in an arrangement.

In the past, agencies would recruit Surrogates offering a $200-$300 signing bonus. Over the years, it has jumped to $500, and now is between $1000-$2000. Although this offers an incentive for Surrogates to apply; the bonus, in most cases, is invoiced back to the Intended Parents which adds to their long list of expenses.

The same inflation has occurred with Surrogate base compensation. The base compensation for Surrogates has begun to hit between $50,000-$55,000 base compensation, regardless of what insurance they have. Whereas, one to two years ago, base compensation was around $30,000-$35,000 for an inexperienced Surrogate and $35,000-$40,000 for an experienced Surrogate. This is becoming especially prevalent on the west coast, instigated by west coast surrogacy agencies due to favorable state laws and surrogacy tourism.

I understand the logic behind other agencies adopting this business model. I agree it will help recruit Surrogates and increase their bottom line, but this is negatively impacting the law of demand in the marketplace. The cost of a surrogacy journey averages $150,000-$180,000. If a Surrogate base compensation is increased by 20%-30%, we are essentially making it so Intended Parents are no longer able to afford a surrogacy journey. Thus, many couples and individuals are being priced out of having Surrogacy as a family building option. Keep in mind, Surrogate compensation is not the only metric which increases from year to year. Many agencies and IVF clinics also increase their program fees on a regular basis. Therefore, the Surrogate compensation is just one factor.

Agencies should collectively all decide to stay within a standard industry-wide base compensation range. We should not drive up the market, leading even more agencies to also raise their Surrogate compensation structure to stay competitive. Again, this is all bad, financially for parent-hopefuls.

Together, with my husband Adam, we chose to open an agency because we wanted to help build families. For those business owners who are inflating fees by such a wide margin; are they really dedicated and committed to helping others grow their families? Continuing down this path will eventually lead to gestational surrogacy only being a viable option to the super-rich and elite class of society. Surrogacy is an expensive endeavor as it is. I have witnessed Intended Parents take out a second mortgage, private loans, begin crowdfunding campaigns, and borrow from their family and friends. Does causing a larger financial burden seem fair to them?

While the financial incentive for Surrogates seems to be an ever-changing component, we always want our “Golden Surrogates” to fundamentally believe in our mission that Everyone Deserves a Family.