Workplaces Unsure How to Address Infertility-related Issues

Americans would like to think that employers have made progress in dealing with issues surrounding a woman’s pregnancy, maternity leave, and other issues that severely impact women of child-bearing age that are in the workforce. And many companies – large and small – have indeed ramped up their benefits for women who are in the midst of growing their family.

Workplaces Unsure How to Address Infertility-related IssuesBut, notes an article posted on the daily web magazine Slate, American workplaces are still terrible at dealing with the issues surrounding infertility. The article sites the disturbing story of Alex, a private school teacher currently undergoing IVF treatments.

She asks for a paid personal day for her embryo transfer and is quickly told that such events do not qualify for use of her paid personal days. Yet, says Alex, she’s seen colleagues take personal days to attend the popular Burning Man Festival, with no consequences.

She is hard-pressed to understand why this medical procedure – so important to her and her family – isn’t viewed as acceptable. And, to boot, the decision not to allow her a paid personal day was made by a woman. Alex was left feeling angry and disappointed.

Slate points out that while paid family leave has gotten lots of attention from legislators, infertility issues remain “in the shadows” despite the fact that 1 in 8 American women have difficulty conceiving. That leaves these women not only feeling alone but also worrying about their work security and facing enormous bills that will likely not be covered by their medical insurance.

Yet, the number of babies born using assisted reproduction techniques has more than doubled in the last decade. Still, it is rare that full fertility treatment benefits are a part of company health insurance. And while many lawmakers, company execs, and others have seen fit to discuss whether or not companies must supply reimbursement for birth control, it is rare that IVF or other infertility issues are ever addressed in those negotiations.

Insurance coverage for infertility treatments is more a “perk” than a norm, experts point out. Many individuals – men and women – choose jobs for which they might not otherwise apply or stay in jobs that they don’t like simply because they get IVF benefits. And, most of the time, the benefits are scanty and still leave hopeful moms and dads holding the bag.

Indeed, only 16 states require that insurance companies provide or offer some coverage, the article points out, but there are often loopholes that allow providers to get away with not paying the whole bill.

“Since these treatments fall, in terms of official workplace policy, at the intersection between medical treatment, disability, and pregnancy, companies are often caught flat-footed, with many lacking precedent and clear policies—leaving managers and HR staffers to make their own judgments,” the article explains. “And many employers have no idea what their legal obligations are regarding all of this.”

Furthermore, many who are fortunate enough to have insurance that covers infertility treatments find that there’s a cap on those benefits, often around $20,000. Many also have pre-certification protocols built in, so by the time a couple reaches IVF, the money is gone.

In addition, many traditional insurance companies that do offer benefits exclude single women and gay couples from their coverage, demanding they try to get pregnant through heterosexual intercourse for up to a year before granting them any benefits at all.

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