Stephanie Dwilson

3 Ways to Adapt Your Benefits Package to the Changing Family Planning Landscape

The family planning landscape has evolved in recent years. More women are having children later in life, and more same-sex parents are raising children. In turn, family services like fertility treatments, surrogates and genetic testing are in high demand.

As the idea of the “typical” family develops, so should the benefits package you provide your employees who are starting a family. Here are three types of benefits that could help you keep up.

1. Egg Freezing and IVF

Today, 1 in 8 couples has trouble getting or staying pregnant. And although most insurance carriers will cover a fertility diagnosis, most plans approved by the Affordable Care Act don’t cover in vitro fertilization (IVF) or egg freezing. These services can be very expensive — IVF alone can cost up to $20,000 per cycle. For many people, fertility treatments simply aren’t a financially viable option.

That’s why some companies are choosing to help make fertility services more accessible. According to the Wall Street Journal, 66 percent of employers plan to offer some kind of fertility benefit in 2019. Companies are adding fertility coverage in response to changing needs of their staff and a tightening job market, aiming to position themselves as a more attractive choice for would-be employees.

Offering this coverage also has the potential to increase employee loyalty. Almost 90 percent of women whose employers covered their IVF treatments returned to those employers after maternity leaves. Considering the high cost of replacing an employee, that kind of retention can make a big difference.

2. Surrogacy

Surrogacy is another family planning option that traditional insurance often doesn’t cover. Read the fine print: Some health plans may stipulate that they only cover pregnancies within a family and not through a surrogate. For this reason, families hoping to work with a surrogate might need to look into supplemental plans or other means of covering the high expenses that can come with surrogacy.

Organizations like Pinterest have bolstered their benefits to include coverage for surrogacy. Doing so is a strong statement from employers that they encourage and support parents regardless of how they get there.

3. Genetic Testing

Prenatal genetic testing can involve screening pregnancies for Down syndrome, neural tube issues and other birth defects and chromosomal complications. Traditionally reserved for high-risk pregnancies, screening services are growing in popularity for even average-risk gestations.

A 2018 survey found that 18 percent of organizations provide genetic testing coverage, an increase from 12 percent in 2016. This testing includes not just prenatal screening but also genetic testing to determine diseases adults might be at risk of developing.

Keep in mind that some debate currently surrounds genetic testing. In adults, it may improve the precision with which doctors prescribe medication, and some genetic testing — like screening high-risk pregnancies for Down syndrome — is commonplace. However, as the Society for Human Resources Management points out, some are wary of the risk of false positives. Not every employee will seek out the full range of genetic testing available, but offering even some testing, such as prenatal screening, can address a need that many other organizations’ benefits offerings currently fail to.

How to Provide Support If You Can’t Afford Extra Coverage

Not every employer can afford to cover surrogacy, IVF, egg freezing and genetic testing. But you can still show your support in other ways. Offer to cover part of the cost, even if it’s a more limited amount, for example. Be generous with time off for doctors’ appointments, and consider offering maternity and paternity leave not only for traditional pregnancies but also for adoptions and surrogacies.

At the same time, educate your employees about their options for paying for fertility treatment. The National Infertility Association offers a list of infertility financing programs, grants and scholarships that might be available. If you have an employee assistance program, you can also suggest that your staff meet with an accountant to get confidential financial counseling.

Ultimately, however you can help with family planning, your employees — and their loved ones — will benefit from it.

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