Over the past few years, dialogue around fertility has entered the mainstream, in many ways thanks to pop culture icons like Michelle Obama and Kim Kardashian who have spoken openly about their experiences with fertility treatments and surrogacy. Medically assisted family planning is certainly on the rise, with one in 65 American babies today being conceived with the help of these treatments — and yet, fertility care isn’t included in most healthcare coverage and is not affordable for many who need it.
At 34 years old, I knew I didn’t want to have kids immediately. I also knew, however, that I might want to eventually. Like many millennial women, I decided to freeze my eggs in order to preserve fertility. I considered the procedures to be an investment in my health, just as I would invest in regular medical check-ups, teeth cleaning, and eye exams. But unlike medical, dental, and vision insurance coverage, fertility coverage was not offered by my employer. Despite dutifully paying health insurance premiums for more than a decade, I ended up dipping into my savings and spending $35,000 out of pocket to undergo three egg freezing cycles.
That cost had far-reaching repercussions in my life. Investing in my health limited my options to buy a house or car. By foregoing the opportunity to invest that $35k in a retirement via a mutual fund, my 401(k), or the stock market, I lost out on more than $150,000 in potential earnings. Soon after this experience, I left my job and launched Carrot to help companies provide the fertility benefits I wish I’d had to their employees.
As the (non)existence of fertility benefits play a bigger role in prospective employees’ career decisions, employers can demonstrate their commitment to employee healthcare by offering inclusive fertility benefits packages. Mitigating the costs of fertility treatments can grant employees autonomy and flexibility in their family planning, allowing them to navigate work and family in the way that works best for them. However, before we can expect widespread adoption, there are a few myths about fertility benefits that need busting.
Myth #1: "I’m not planning on having kids anytime soon (if ever), so I don’t need fertility coverage."
Fertility is a fundamental part of human health. Access to the right resources can help you make informed decisions about your body and discover new options for postponing, preserving, or preventing fertility.
Even if you are not personally interested in pursuing fertility treatments right now, others at your workplace might be. Many existing plans cannot be unlocked without a formal medical infertility diagnosis, making care inaccessible for LGBTQ+ couples that need medical assistance to start their families and for people who want to preserve their fertility options for a later time.
The point is for care to be accessible and affordable for everyone who wants or needs it, now and in the future, regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, or marital status.
Myth #2: "HR will ignore or dismiss me if I ask about fertility benefits."
This is a valid concern, but it’s also one that is emblematic of a larger problem—women, on average, tend not to speak up about inequity in their workplace. Know that you are not alone in asking for coverage—more and more people (not just women) are asking their employers to offer these benefits—and, as an employee, you have negotiating power.
There is a solid economic case for employers to offer comprehensive benefits, and studies have shown that a majority of people are willing to change jobs to ensure fertility coverage. Other studies have shown that employees of companies that offer fertility coverage are happier with their employer. HR is in the business of attracting and retaining good talent, so agreeing to provide fertility benefits is really a no-brainer.
Myth #3: "Only big tech companies can afford to offer fertility benefits."
Though companies cannot — and should not — break the bank to provide financial coverage for fertility care, every company can provide some coverage. It’s true that big tech companies have led the way in offering fertility benefits for their employees, but companies across the board in industries like law, finance, insurance, and more are following suit. In fact, Carrot has worked with non-profits, tech and legal companies and consulting firms to create fertility benefit plans that meet the needs of their employees without straining company funds.
Making sure employees have access to safe and optimal fertility care by providing them with resources and financial assistance also allows employers to mitigate potential future healthcare costs. Employees with fertility benefits are less likely to risk cheaper, potentially dangerous treatments that could lead to health complications down the line.
This year, around 66 percent of employers are expected to offer some type of fertility coverage. No company wants to be the slowest adopter, so go make your case.