Many couples dream about experiencing the joys of having a baby. However, this could be a struggle for many as infertility is on the rise in Canada. The prevalence of infertility has doubled since the 1980s and now sits at 15.7 per cent, according to the 2012 study Estimating the Prevalence of Infertility in Canada.
With this rate on the rise, many couples are looking to assisted human reproduction methods such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments — the manual process of combining egg and sperm in a laboratory and transplanting viable fertilized eggs into the uterus.
There were 11,718 IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment cycles in Canada in 2011, up nearly 10 per cent from the previous year, according to the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS).
But the expenses related to this medical procedure can be very high, largely due to the cost of the ovary-stimulating drugs, which is not covered in many corporate benefits plans. The average expense ranges between $10,000 and $15,000 per cycle in Canada, according to HealthLink BC.
The procedure of IVF is lengthy, invasive and can take years, during which time employees often experience financial, emotional and time-management pressures. And any support by the provinces or territories is limited.
In Ontario, some costs associated with IVF procedures are covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). However, OHIP doesn’t cover all of the treatment costs, such as IVF lab services and any drugs used.
In Quebec, the provincial government has been funding IVF for a few years. Couples are eligible for three to six cycles of treatment. The treatments covered include egg harvesting, IVF, pre-implant genetic testing, embryo transfer and sperm sample collection. And across Canada, some of the drugs and treatments for IVF can be claimed as tax credits.
Top employers offering coverage for IVF treatment
However, the financial as well as emotional strain of enduring rounds of IVF treatments is often a stress point for employees.
That’s why many employers, including Accenture, are recognizing the benefit for both employee and employer by offering coverage for some of the costs associated with IVF treatment.
In Canada, 30 per cent of the companies listed on Mediacorp Canada’s Top 100 Employers rankings — such as ISM Canada, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto Hydro and NB Power — have provisions for IVF treatment in their benefits coverage. Last year, about 10 per cent of the employers covered an amount of $10,000 or greater, with Accenture offering a maximum amount of $15,000.
For the employees who do require this support, receiving this medical benefit can make a positive difference in their lives.
To put the cost of IVF in perspective, $15,000 represents one-fifth of the 2010 take-home pay for the average Canadian family. For those who do not receive this benefit, paying for IVF treatment out-of-pocket can place a significant strain on a couple looking to conceive a child.
Employers that cover IVF benefits do so for the well-being of valued employees and to show their financial and moral support. This is a relatively small benefit and only a small portion of employees use it in comparison to other medical fees covered in a typical benefits package, such as massages or prescription drugs.
Knowing their employer is there for them at a difficult time in their lives is an attractive element for many employees and prospective employees, which helps employers retain and recruit high-performing men and women.
Companies can see some tangible financial positive impacts through decreases in absenteeism and by mitigating productivity loss and reduced job performance.
By receiving this benefit, hopeful parents experience some relief from the financial pressure of IVF and potentially use those funds for a child’s education, daycare costs and planning for their lives with their new baby.
Having coverage for these costs gives employees the peace of mind of knowing this benefit is available to them if they need it in the future.
Employers benefit from helping employees have happy, healthy and productive lives.
Nicholas Greschner is human resources director for Canada at Accenture in Montreal. For more information, visit www.accenture.com.