Why Employers Can’t Afford Not to Offer Fertility Benefits

Despite the struggling economy, biological clocks keep ticking and workers continue to pursue the American dream of having a family. How employers respond to employees’ needs can make the difference between a strong, stable workforce and one that is continually on the move in search of a benefits package that meets personal well-being goals.

Many employees face the stress and anguish of not being able to conceive within a normally accepted period of time. Many then turn to infertility treatments that are not always covered under basic health care plans. In fact, more than 15% of women of reproductive age in the United States have received some level of infertility treatment.

Offering infertility benefits can be advantageous to employers and the significant percentage of the population who have need. First and foremost is that proper treatment for infertility enhances patient safety. However, it is also cost-effective, thus reducing the total cost of pregnancies.

In fact it is short-sighted for employers to think they save money by not offering a comprehensive fertility benefit. Without this employees may seek surgeries covered by what limited insurance they may have, even if it has little chance of being successful, or they may be put on ovulation induction medications (commonly referred to as fertility drugs) for the same reason, with the same result. Surgery is expensive and never without risks. Fertility drugs increase the chance of high order births, as well as the risk of development of ovarian cysts.

Exploring assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) makes sense for the patient and the employer as it typically results in a higher success rate with less risk to the patient and, for the employer, less total cost for its employee population.

Compared to drug and surgical treatments, these procedures typically have higher success with less risk and expense. In addition, the limited embryonic transfers associated with IVF guidelines for physicians from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) generally result in no more than two births, lessening the costs of pregnancy complications and health issues for the mother and her child or children.

Babies born in high multiple birth situations often have substantial ongoing health issues, thus ongoing health insurance costs. Add to this the cost and impact of extended time off associated with multiple births and the health and cost importance of ASRM guidelines are clear.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that ART procedures nearly doubled between 1996 and 2004, and major Fortune 500 companies recognize how this increased need can impact a workforce. A 2005 survey on employer attitudes toward infertility insurance coverage done by Mercer Health & Benefit LLC, found that nearly 75% of those surveyed offered coverage because it ensured employees were being given “access to quality, cost-effective care.” Nearly 70% believed it helped demonstrate that the company is family friendly, and more than 60% said it helped morale and retention.

While some companies responded that they do not offer infertility insurance due to cost, the survey revealed that a comprehensive fertility benefit costs less than 0.5% of the total health care benefits offered.

The most short-sighted reason cited in the survey for not offering infertility insurance came from employers who responded that it was not their responsibility. This opinion can be harmful to employee relations plans that purport to have the employees’ best interests in mind.

Companies such as Black & Decker, Gillette and Proctor & Gamble have found the value in offering infertility insurance that includes IVF. In fact, Ray Brusca, vice president of benefits at Black & Decker stated publicly that, “Employers who think there’s a lot of cost involved in covering infertility are mistaken. It’s not a cost driver. It’s an employee relations issue that’s a winner for all of us.”

Employers and benefits administrators should first gain knowledge about how infertility insurance can fit into a health care benefits plan. The pluses far outweigh the minuses in terms of cost and return on investment, and the perceived value of how such a benefit addresses workforce morale and retention goals will do much to attract and keep productive employees; not to mention demonstrate the employer’s care and concern for the employees’ health and well being.

Benefits administrators should provide employees with written confirmation of the exact benefits provided under infertility coverage. For employees not covered by health insurance, employers can still demonstrate support by providing information about fertility clinics that provide low-cost “bundle” plans with no hidden fees. Employers also can encourage women who require IVF treatment to seek out programs and facilities that offer a complimentary initial consultation and low-cost treatment.

Employers who support their covered insured’s desire for a baby with programs that put their well-being and safety first will find there are corporate benefits as well.

Article originally published on the theihcc.com, republished here with Dr. Perloe’s permission.