While more and more companies are adding benefits to support families by extending their maternity leave (and overall parental leave) policies and implementing programs that help employees return to the workforce after taking care of a child or loved one, only a handful of companies offer a benefit that addresses infertility related issues.
In fact, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ 2016 employee benefits survey, only a quarter of employers (with 500 or more employees) offer fertility services as part of their health insurance benefits. 19% cover in vitro treatment (IVF), 12% cover fertility medication and 9% cover non-IVF fertility treatments. However, even employers who do cover often don’t see the value since employees will exhaust their benefit before achieving a successful pregnancy.
The reality is that infertility has always been a complex issue, and some of the biggest challenges associated with it have been the high cost (the average IVF cost, for example, is $12,500) and the stigma surrounding it.
The good news is that more and more people are being vocal about their struggles, and we are becoming more aware of the problem. The bad news is that there is still a lot of red tape around receiving quality care. While the World Health Organization recognized infertility as a disease in 2009, only 15 states have a mandate on insurance coverage. With over 7 million people dealing with infertility and the small percentage of companies that offer a solution, the numbers just don’t add up.
When an employee is battling infertility, the employer will ultimately lose. The employer will be hit with soft dollars (the employee’s moral and presence in the workplace) and hard dollars (typically the hidden costs in treatment and possibility of high risk maternity, multiples and NICU.)
The financial burden is not just on the employee. Due to the lack of coverage or restrictions from a limited benefit, an employee will pay out-of-pocket for treatment. This leads to choosing a treatment that is less expensive, less effective and has a higher chance of producing twins or multiples. Often, fertility medications are combined with artificial insemination. If that doesn’t work, IVF is often utilized and multiple embryos are transferred to increase the chance of pregnancy. While this sounds like a decent option, twins and multiples are incredibly risky, and 20% of twin babies will go into NICU (this goes up to 80% for triplets).
And who gets stuck with the bill? The employer. They’re responsible for the costs related to the high-risk maternity care that will likely include a C-section, pre-term birth and NICU expenses.
Next is the emotional distress that can leave an employee drained. When people go through infertility, they can suffer depression, absenteeism in the workplace and have higher rates of divorce. One employee’s morale can impact his or her team, which ultimately impacts the company overall.
Lastly, as more employers wonder what type of benefit will attract and retain employees, a survey has shown 90% of people with infertility issues are willing to change to an employer that provides fertility coverage.
The benefits of providing a comprehensive fertility benefits plan outweigh the downstream costs from maternity care -- and they help a group of people who aren’t typically recognized.
It’s time to support your employees who are enduring this stressful and expensive journey -- it will help both parties in the long run.
Karin Ajmani is President of Healthcare Services at Progyny.
Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.