Dreaming of starting a family
Employers should offer fertility treatment help
Infertility can cause strained relationships, anxiety, depression and financial hardship
Thanks to advances in science and technology, Canadians have more options than ever when it comes to realizing their dreams for a family. Women, more than men, bear the burden of reproduction and the consequences of treatment. Procedures such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), fertility preservation (FP) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) have allowed individuals and couples faced with infertility (a medical condition which affects one in six Canadians) to have children. Thanks to the increasing number of provincial governments that have chosen to provide financial support to cover the cost, many more Canadians can access these treatments.
In Canada, the public funding of IVF and other fertility treatments in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick has been a major development toward providing equitable access to those seeking treatment. Ontario’s fertility program contributes to the cost of one IVF cycle (a procedure which costs on average $10,000) per eligible patient per lifetime, while Manitoba and New Brunswick offer a tax credit and one-time grant to patients respectively. Quebec, which once provided full coverage for IVF, now offers family income based tax credits to help cover treatment costs.
While a step in the right direction, only Quebec currently covers the drug costs associated with the fertility treatments they help fund. With the average cost of drugs for an IVF treatment ranging between $2,000 and $5,000, the absence of funding presents another significant barrier to access to care for many patients. Young persons, poor or middle class families, or those who face sterility following cancer therapy often do not have the means to pay for the medications they require to preserve their fertility.
Infertility can cause strained relationships, anxiety, depression and financial hardship for patients, which can often carry over to the workplace. For women undergoing fertility treatments, the burden is not only financial, as fertility drugs in combination with the stress of treatment are known to affect their physical and emotional well-being — leading to increased absenteeism, workplace costs, and overall reduced job performance and productivity. Studies have shown when employers support the reproductive choices of their employees the best employees are more likely to be retained.
With an increasing number of Canadians affected by medically treatable infertility every year, employers that provide coverage for fertility drugs in their benefit plans (like medical and dental care), are becoming increasingly attractive to prospective employees who believe it demonstrates consideration of, respect for, and interest in their well-being. However, despite the perceived need, many Canadian employers have yet to incorporate fertility drug coverage into their benefits packages. For example, fewer than 30 per cent of the companies on Mediacorp’s 2012 list of Canada’s top 100 employers offered benefits for IVF.
This Infertility Awareness Week (May 713), Canadian companies should strongly consider including coverage for fertility drugs in their health benefit plans to attract and retain top-tier employees. Providing full coverage for assisted reproductive treatments may not be possible for all companies, but funding one cycle of IVF medications, for example, would go a long way to recognizing and supporting the reproductive choices of their employees. Employees undoubtedly do appreciate and recognize their employer’s support of their desire for a child, an appreciation which will be reflected in a more positive work attitude and will extend into boosted company morale.
Simply put, it’s good for business.
Dr. Art Leader is a founding partner of the Ottawa Fertility Centre, and board member of the Ontario-based infertility patient group, Conceivable Dreams.