Both the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association (AMA) have recently recognized infertility as a disease. This could have a big impact on how insurers and employers treat infertility when it comes to their benefit offerings.
According to research from Willis Towers Watson, the number of employers offering fertility benefits is expected to increase from about 55% to 66% by 2019. This trend shows just how important employers (and their employees) consider these benefits to be.
Opting to provide fertility benefits sooner rather than later could give you an edge when it comes to recruitment and retention. But there are some things you should know.
What is Infertility?
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after a full year of trying, without using contraceptives. This disease affects men and women. But not all couples show identifiable signs of infertility, which can make it hard to diagnose. Even if clear signs are present, it may not be obvious that they point to infertility.
This can put incredible strain on relationships and cause partners to feel inadequate, depressed, ashamed or guilty. According to the AMA, undergoing fertility treatments early can get ahead of these emotions and increase the chances of pregnancy.
Types of Treatments
How employers handle fertility benefits varies widely, in part because the trend of offering this type of coverage is relatively new.
Employers essentially have two options when it comes to fertility benefits:
1.) Offer to pay a portion of infertility treatment costs as a voluntary benefit, or
2.) Cover specific treatments under their health plan.
There is no right or wrong way to incorporate infertility programs into your benefit offerings. It will depend on your budget and the needs of your workforce.
Deciding whether to offer these options as voluntary offerings or under a health plan should not deter you from providing some sort of fertility benefits. With other businesses slow to adopt fertility benefits, you have a unique opportunity to tailor your benefits and leverage these offerings to attract and retain employees.
Consider this list of potential treatments you could cover in your fertility benefits package:
In vitro fertilization—IVF is relatively invasive and involves the collection of eggs, fertilization in a lab, then implantation in the uterus. Like most treatments, this can be very expensive, but it is a go-to method for many people. Offering to cover some or all of IVF for employees can be a huge win for retention.
Ovarian stimulation—This kind of stimulation is often part of IVF, as ovaries must be stimulated for best results. However, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the optimal regimen of stimulation has not been established. This means treatments will likely evolve and be simplified in the coming years, which could translate into lower costs and increased viability for insurers.
Artificial insemination—There are several specific forms of artificial insemination, but they all have the same basic outcome: semen is manually injected into the uterus through medical devices. Artificial insemination has been around for decades and has been established as one of the most popular options for individuals who need help conceiving.
Surgery—There are a variety of surgeries designed to help reverse infertility. For instance, procedures can remove ovarian cysts, clear fallopian tubes, remove adhesions from the uterus and collect semen from individuals who cannot otherwise produce it. Since all of these issues can cause infertility, surgically treating them increases the chance of pregnancy.
Medications—There are many medications, both prescription and over the counter, designed to help increase fertility. These medications include treatments that stimulate ovulation, promote healthier egg growth and prevent premature ovulation.
Reasons for Infertility Treatment
Infertility has many potential causes. Understanding them can help when considering medical treatments.
Some individuals may choose to seek infertility treatment due to factors other than the inability to conceive. Below are some of the most common conditions that prompt individuals to seek fertility procedures:
Endometriosis—This condition happens when uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus, affecting how the reproductive organs function.
Genetic disorders—Some individuals worried about passing on genetic disorders opt for procedures like IVF, which allows doctors to implant eggs in a lab, screen them for genetic disorders and reinsert them into the uterus.
Uterine fibroids—Fibroids are benign tumors and their presence in the uterus can interfere with pregnancies. These are especially common in women between the ages of 30 and 40.
Ovulation disorders—A number of conditions exist that prevent or drastically lower the chances of ovulation. This means fewer eggs are present, which may force individuals to seek infertility treatments, like egg donors or IVF.
Fertility preservation—Those who must undergo severe treatments, like chemotherapy, might opt to preserve some of their eggs or sperm. Since some treatments can result in lower fertility, removing and storing these genetic materials opens the opportunity for fertilization later on.
Controlling Cost Factors
Employees who suffer from infertility often seek treatment regardless of whether their employers offer any benefits. This can lead to risky decisions, short-term solutions, and less effective outcomes.
Allowing employees to shoulder the entire burden of infertility treatment can have additional consequences for employees, such as poor performance, inability to focus on job duties, and increased stress. By sharing a portion of the costs for infertility treatments, employers can help reduce these effects.
In addition to reducing employee risks, offering fertility benefits can help lower health care costs overall. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, employees with access to fertility benefits tend to cost their employers less because they are making health decisions with their doctors’ advice, not solely due to financial limitations. This means employers should not worry about seeing a huge rise in costs if they offer fertility benefits.
Fertility benefits can improve the lives of your employees and position your organization as a coveted place to work, especially if your competitors are slow to adopt similar benefits.
At Sonus Benefits, we build cost effective, long-lasting benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health. Located in Kirkwood, MO, we help clients throughout the greater St. Louis area identify and manage complex employee benefits challenges. If you would like help managing your employee programs, we may be the insurance consultant and business partner you need.
Content for this article was provided by Zywave, Inc. and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances or be used as legal or medical advice.