Fertility benefits aren’t just a nice-to-have anymore — they’re critical for attracting and retaining the talent companies need to succeed. Time and again, studies show that diverse teams, especially those with diverse leadership teams, are more creative and more profitable. In fact, according to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, organizations whose leadership teams are in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25 percent more likely to see above-average profits compared to those in the bottom quartile. And the more diverse a company becomes, the more likely it is to outperform.
But achieving gender diversity is getting harder. Women in leadership are leaving their jobs at the highest rate since McKinsey and LeanIn.org started tracking back in 2015. Much of this has to do with fallout from the pandemic, when schools and daycares closed, and women bore a disproportionate childcare burden while also trying to balance work.
Many people have come out of this pandemic experience with fundamentally changed priorities. The McKinsey-LeanIn.org study shows that senior-level women are now willing to switch jobs to find flexibility; support for diversity, equity, and inclusion; and a workplace that values women’s well-being. And younger women are following their lead, making career decisions with similar priorities in mind.
Ovia’s research reveals some of the ways this shift is shaping employee expectations. When we surveyed nearly 1,500 working parents and child-bearing-age employees, 77.8 percent said family-friendly benefits were extremely important—and nearly 50 percent said they’d be very likely to take a job at another company with better family benefits.
So, which family benefits make a difference? You may be thinking about things like maternity support, childcare, and flexible work schedules — and these are huge. But to win the battle for the best, most diverse teams, companies need to differentiate themselves by thinking bigger. Fertility support is a critical piece of a larger, holistic wellness plan.
Why do fertility benefits matter?
Impaired fecundity (difficulty becoming pregnant and carrying to term) and infertility are more common than most of us realize — according to the World Health Organization (WHO), infertility impacts one in six people at some point in their lives. But prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of fertility issues can be extraordinarily difficult to access. The costs are high, and the availability of qualified care is limited. On top of that, the topic can be hard to talk about, so people don’t address issues with their doctors early or may not even know where to start when they need support.
Fertility issues can have an outsized impact on women who delay family building to focus on their careers. In addition to the increased health risks of pregnancy later in life, these women may discover that they’re trying to conceive right as their fertility is declining. The rate of impaired fecundity (difficulty or inability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term) among those who’ve never given birth is 22.2 percent for women ages 30-39. It jumps to 33.4 percent for women between 40-49. That’s a 50 percent increase in 10 years or less.
The challenges can be even greater for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) women. Non-Hispanic Black women are 44 percent more likely to struggle with infertility compared to women of other races. But studies suggest that African American women, along with Chinese and Hispanic women, are significantly less likely to seek care for fertility issues and are underrepresented in the infertility clinic population.
But when barriers to access are removed, women choose fertility care services. For example, in one study, Black women with at least partial insurance coverage for fertility care through their benefits were found to be four times as likely to use assisted reproductive technologies (ART) compared to the general US ART population.
Taken together, these details give us a clearer picture of an issue people rarely talk about: fertility is a widespread health issue, and most companies don’t offer sufficient (or any) coverage for care. This may be taking the biggest toll on non-white women and women who are further along in their careers — those who are increasingly hard to retain, and whose leadership can have a huge impact on a company’s success.
It’s clear that fertility is a benefit companies need to cover. Here’s a closer look at the types of fertility benefits, how they work, and which ones have the biggest impact.
Fertility benefits 101
There are two main types of fertility coverage: network-based and reimbursement. Network-based coverage is typically offered through a third-party administrator. Employees are given access to a pre-vetted network of providers which they can access through their benefits. The upside of this type of coverage is that employees can access quality care, and they don’t have to take on the extra task of searching out a provider. This type of program also relieves the administrative burden for HR departments. The downside is some networks leave gaps, or even care deserts, in some locations.
Reimbursement coverage, on the other hand, is a fund or pre-determined amount of money set aside for fertility benefits. For employees, this allows an unlimited network to choose from. Companies can set a cap on fertility-related spending, and the work for HR teams is minimal. But this system can add extra burdens for employees who have to do more administrative work and may need to cover costs up front, and then wait for reimbursement.
There are also two common ways to arrange payment for fertility benefits: cycle-based coverage and reimbursement coverage. With cycle-based coverage, employees are allotted a set number of rounds or cycles of treatment at a provider organization. This payment system offers clarity, since treatments are typically billed per cycle. However costs can vary considerably between providers.
Some organizations offer reimbursement coverage, which provides employees with a lifetime maximum for coverage. Within parameters set by the organization, employees can choose to spend the funds as they see fit. Reimbursement can be structured as a full fund where employees access benefits, a reimbursement model, or a co-insurance model in which the organization covers a percentage of the cost of treatments.
Employers may also choose to create a plan that combines elements of the different coverage structures.
Looking beyond fertility to support every type of family
For a holistic approach to fertility benefits, we can think bigger than treatments for fertility, and embrace all types of family-building.
Alternative paths to parenthood include adoption, surrogacy, and egg freezing. Support for these life events can be just as impactful as fertility support, especially for those in the LGBTQIA+ community, single parents, people who are not able to conceive or carry a pregnancy, and those who want to preserve fertility into the future.
With a reimbursement coverage model, a company can easily wrap resources for alternative paths to parenthood into their fertility coverage.
Fertility benefits need to go hand-in-hand with maternity care
Fertility benefits are a powerful way to show that your company supports women and families — which can translate to better retention for some of your most critical employees. But on its own, a fertility benefit can lead to a spike in healthcare spending. That’s because ART and advanced maternal age can increase the rates of preterm births and multiple births — both of which are expensive. In fact, births of multiples can cost up to 20 times more than singleton births.
The key to a cost-effective fertility benefit is to pair it with a comprehensive maternity care management program. Or even better, offer employees a broader women’s health solution that focuses on helping as many people as possible conceive naturally (to reduce multiple births). This type of holistic support can provide personalized prevention programs to help reduce preterm labor and other adverse, expensive, health outcomes.
This is the focus of Ovia Health’s programs — helping our members navigate their health and wellbeing through all the stages of family building. Ovia clients have seen the need for ART reduced up to 65 percent, multiple gestations reduced by as much as 47 percent, and preterm birth rates reduced by as much as 54 percent.*
Getting the most value from your women’s and family benefits
To attract and retain a diverse workforce, companies need to pay attention to employees’ shifting priorities and offer the benefits to match — including a culture that supports families and work-life balance, as well as resources for women’s health.
Adding fertility benefits is a huge step in the right direction. For even more value, companies can cover a full spectrum of women’s and family health needs, including:
- Alternative paths to parenthood
- Maternity care management
- Postpartum health
- Child health
- Advanced women’s health, including menopause support
If you’re ready to boost your benefits, you don’t have to make sense of this new landscape alone — the right digital health partner can help. Ovia has supported millions of people through fertility, pregnancy, early parenthood, and beyond. Our digital health solution is built on over a decade of data and experience, and our app-based support is backed by a certified care team with a deep understanding of women’s and family health and wellbeing.
Want to learn more? Ovia is here for you.
Ovia Health, a Labcorp subsidiary, has served more than 18 million family and parenthood journeys since 2012 and is on a mission to make a happy, healthy family possible for everyone. Ovia Health is the only family health solution clinically proven to effectively identify and intervene with high-risk conditions. The company’s 50+ clinical programs, including predictive coaching and personalized care plans, help prevent unnecessary health care costs, improve health outcomes, and foster a family-friendly workplace that increases retention and return to work. For more information, visit OviaHealth.com.
* Note that these outcomes reflect the greatest improvement experienced by a single client for these clinical condition areas. Other clients experienced different outcomes in these clinical areas. Actual results may vary based upon initial prevalence rate and engagement rates.