What does “Base Fee” or “Base Compensation” really mean in a surrogacy arrangement?

Once intended parents (IPs) start the search for a surrogate or gestational carrier (GC), whether it’s in an independent situation or through an agency setting, they will soon come across the phrase "base fee" or “base compensation.” What is this fee for? Who sets these fees? Isn't it the same as 'paying' a surrogate? Why is the word compensation used? And how does it tie into insurance for the pregnancy and birth?

Let me illuminate you on a few of 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 heart beat on the ultra sound monitor. The base fee is commonly broken down into monthly payments, however these are not always equal monthly installments, although it is generally accepted that it will be paid out over 8 or 9 equal installments.

 These fees are usually set up this way because the risk of miscarriage is higher earlier in pregnancy. This way the intended parents are not paying a huge amount of money if there is a loss and the surrogate is compensated for the time that she actually did carry.

It’s important to remember that babies are born on their own time table, so if a baby or babies are born slightly early the amount that is left over is put into one last check and given to the surrogate within 14 days after the birth (or whatever time frame is stated in the contract). In the case of multiples an extra amount is often added usually from month 5-9. 

 So, who sets these fees? A good question and a hard one to answer! Generally, agencies know state what gestational carriers are deeming fair to carry at that time.  Gestational carriers always have the right to adjust compensation and request what they deem fair. Agencies do generally like to ask them to lock in an amount early on so that expectations can be set at the time of matching so there won’t be a nasty surprise once the legal stage rolls around. Extremely high amounts are generally frowned upon as there is a concern that if a judge saw an amazingly large amount of money in a contract that fact alone could 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 often labeled compensation, reimbursement, living expenses or even pre-birth child support. Surrogates are supposed to be carrying a child, not to make money, but instead, for altruistic reasons. Any money involved is to support the surrogate and the unborn baby throughout the process. No money should be coming out of the surrogate’s family budget to support her while she is a surrogate.

Pacific Northwest Surrogacy recommends that gestational carriers be compensated as follows:

First time surrogate: $40,000

Second time surrogate: $45,000

While health insurance is a separate issue from the base compensation, we do ask our gestational carriers who do not have surrogacy friendly insurance if they would be willing to reduce their compensation in consideration that the intended parent must pay health insurance premiums for the GC; and often they are willing!

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! If a surrogate is on Medicaid then she cannot, under any circumstances, use government insurance! This is FRAUD and is punishable by the law. In fact, if a gestational carrier or her family are on Medicaid they are not eligible for the Pacific Northwest Surrogacy program. Surrogates without surrogacy friendly insurance need to be insured with surrogacy friendly insurance before a journey begins, and if they don’t currently have such a policy there are options through the open market exchange, some agencies can obtain a policy through PregnancyCare, or one of the companies that have catastrophic policies especially for those involved in third party reproduction or family building. Needless to say, these are added expenses, which is why an uninsured surrogate is requested to lower her compensation.

Research is always recommended and when you have questions about compensation or insurance policies, finding an experienced agency or reproductive specialist is a must. We are happy to conduct a free phone or video consult with you to talk through any all questions you might have; find a convenient time for you here!