Dream­ing of start­ing a fam­ily

Em­ploy­ers should of­fer fertility treat­ment help

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - DR. ARTHUR LEADER

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.

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