Companies say cheaper to pay for IVF than have workers do it on their own

I was fascinated by the following Wall Street Journal piece which digs into Company policies regarding benefits for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Adoption.

It’s clear for reasons I can’t comprehend that couples who choose to go the IVF route rather than Adoption get a lot more love and support in their compensation package.

Why?  Good question.

The WSJ piece doesn’t  touch another issue of family planning and companies supporting a woman’s right to choose. Translation. Paying for Abortions.

Excerpted from Wall Street Journal 4.3.2021

Few companies offer to help employees who want to adopt, and they’re often less generous when they do

Some companies have decided it’s cheaper to pay for employees’ fertility treatments than to let employees pursue them on their own, since employers can end up covering many of the related costs anyway. If an employer is footing the bill for IVF, it can specify, for example, that doctors implant only one embryo at a time.

That cuts down on the odds of twins or triplets, where pregnancy and delivery is often complicated—and expensive. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that the delivery and care of a singleton baby costs about $20,000 for insurers and patients. Twins cost $100,000; triplets, $400,000.

Sarah Mahalchick and her future husband talked on one of their first dates about wanting to adopt. There were lots of children out there who needed parents, they told each other from the start.

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But when they were ready to expand their family, they opted for fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization. It seemed to make sense: Ms. Mahalchick’s employer would pay for a large chunk of the treatments through her health insurance; it offered almost no help on adoption.

Fertility benefits are becoming almost trendy at blue-chip companies, with more firms offering to help with the costs of IVF and egg freezing. But in many cases, companies that offer fertility benefits give no financial assistance to employees who want to adopt, and when they do their adoption benefits are often much less generous.

Estimates on how many companies offer fertility or adoption benefits are fuzzy. Most employers give neither. But the gap is clear.

The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that as of 2018, 27% of employers offered some form of infertility coverage and 11% offered adoption assistance. FertilityIQ, a website that offers courses and other information on family building, regularly scours benefit disclosures from thousands of employers. In a report released Saturday, it calculates that only one in five companies that offer fertility coverage also offer adoption assistance.

Employers that provide fertility assistance offer benefits worth an average of about $36,000, according to FertilityIQ. Jake Anderson-Bialis, FertilityIQ’s co-founder, said adoption benefits rarely exceed $10,000, and they’re usually far less.

The disparity hurts people who can’t or prefer not to undergo fertility treatments, including women disheartened by too many miscarriages and those who feel drawn to adopting a child who has no home. For gay men, fertility benefits are essentially useless without a surrogate, and using one can easily cost $100,000 or more.

For Ms. Mahalchick, the two years she spent on fertility treatments were miserable. The IVF hormones made her sick. She suffered multiple miscarriages. She and her husband spent some $10,000 on their portion of the treatments. In January 2020, they called it quits.

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They’re now pursuing adoption and wish they had started sooner. “It’s already stressful enough when you’re becoming a parent,” said Ms. Mahalchick, who lives in the Northeast. “But adoption is treated as if it’s a luxury.”

Adoption and fertility treatments alike are out of reach for many families. Adopting a child can easily cost $50,000 or more. (The exception is adopting from foster care, where financial costs are usually minimal.) A single round of IVF can cost $20,000 or more, and many women need multiple rounds.

Lauren Serianni of Tampa, Fla., said she was disheartened that her husband’s employer was willing to foot the bill for three cycles of IVF, a benefit easily worth $60,000, but would pay only $3,000 toward an adoption. She and her husband spent more than 10 times that to adopt their daughter, who is now a year old.

“Any way you’re going to grow a family is beautiful,” Ms. Serianni said. “It shouldn’t be, ‘If it’s not genetically yours then we won’t pay for it.’ ”

In 2018, about 80,000 children were born in the U.S. using IVF and other fertility treatments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That same year, Americans adopted about 85,000 children they weren’t related to, according to the National Council For Adoption, an advocacy group.

Companies that have introduced generous fertility benefits often say they’re responding to employee demand. IVF and egg freezing have become part of white-collar zeitgeist in a way that adoption hasn’t.

Employers can also have logistical and financial reasons to offer fertility assistance that don’t apply to adoption.

Fertility coverage, when offered, is usually provided under a health insurance plan, which means the coverage can be subject to regulation. At least 17 states have passed laws requiring some insurers to cover or at least offer coverage for some infertility treatments.

Anita Jennison, herself an adoptee, had long wanted to adopt. In 2019, she joined lifestyle brand Goop in California and discovered that the company would reimburse employees for up to $60,000 in adoption expenses through Carrot Fertility, a benefits provider.

Ms. Jennison calculates she spent nearly $80,000 to adopt her daughter, who is now a year old. She would have much preferred to save up for her daughter’s education. She has since left Goop but is grateful for its financial support. She knows half a dozen families, at least, who are desperate to adopt but can’t afford it.

Before joining Goop, Ms. Jennison had thought her path to motherhood was closed. “I never expected this to happen,” she said. “This is a godsend, because no one offers this.”