Did you know both the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized infertility as a disease in 2017? This is expected to have a great impact on how insurers and employers treat infertility when it comes to their benefit offerings.
In fact, the number of employers offering fertility benefits is expected to increase from around 55 percent currently to 66 percent by 2019, according to research from Willis Towers Watson. This trend shows just how important employers (and their employees) consider these benefits to be. Moreover, the trend shows how providing fertility benefits now can be a great advantage for your retention strategy.
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, yet not all couples show identifiable signs of infertility, making it hard to diagnose. Even if clear signs are present, it may not be obvious that they point to infertility. This can cause incredible strain on relationships and cause partners to feel inadequate, depressed, ashamed or guilty. Undergoing fertility treatments early can get ahead of these emotions and increase the chances of pregnancy, according to the AMA.
Types of Treatments
How employers handle fertility benefits varies widely, given that 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 depends on your budget and workforce’s needs.
Deciding whether to offer these benefits as voluntary offerings or under a health plan should not deter you from providing some sort of fertility benefits. In fact, 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 that 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, the optimal regimen of stimulation has not been established, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. This means treatments will likely evolve and be simplified in the coming years, which can translate into lower costs and higher 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, but knowing its cause does not guarantee a procedure will reverse it. However, understanding causes of infertility can help when considering medical treatments. Beyond that, some individuals may choose to seek infertility treatment due to factors apart from 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 to 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.
Control Cost Factors
Employees who suffer from infertility often seek treatment regardless of whether their employers offer any benefits. This can lead to risky decisions and short-term solutions with poorer outcomes. Allowing employees to shoulder the entire burden of infertility treatment can have other harmful effects on them too, like poor performance, inability to focus on job duties and increased stress. By sharing a portion of the costs for infertility treatments, through voluntary benefits or otherwise, employers can 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. With Associated Underwriters Insurance’s help, you can create an optimized structure for your employees to control costs and maintain a high standard of quality.
Fertility benefits can improve the lives of your employees and can prop up your organization as a coveted place to work, especially when competitors are slow to adopt similar benefits. Infertility treatments are not always conducted reactively, like in the case of fertility preservation. Keep this in mind when considering whether to offer these benefits. Speak with Associated Underwriters Insurance to see how these offerings can help your workforce.