Employers rushing to offer fertility benefits may inadvertently create new inequities for LGBTQIA+ employees.

Employers rushing to offer fertility benefits may inadvertently create new inequities for LGBTQIA+ employees.

The Importance of Inclusive Healthcare Benefits for LGBTQIA+ Employees

LGBTQIA+ Benefits

In this era of progressiveness and increased focus on diversity and inclusion, it’s crucial for companies to ensure that they provide inclusive healthcare benefits for all their employees. However, in their haste to keep up with emerging trends, many companies inadvertently exclude their LGBTQIA+ employees from accessing crucial benefits. According to statistics, 63% of LGBTQIA+ individuals rely on different combinations of fertility treatments and resources to build their families. It’s time to address the fine print and ensure that these employees are not left behind.

The Fine Print: Traditional Healthcare Plans and LGBTQIA+ Exclusion

While many progressive benefits plans include coverage for fertility and family-building services, there is often a requirement for individuals to receive a “medical diagnosis of infertility” to access care. This policy, however, is often discriminatory as it typically defines infertility as six to 12 months of unprotected, heterosexual sex without successful conception. Consequently, this definition excludes same-sex couples and single parents by choice from accessing vital resources. A survey conducted by Progyny, consisting of 1,000 LGBTQIA+ individuals, revealed that 40% have health insurance covering fertility treatment and family-building services. However, 68% of respondents with coverage for fertility treatment are unable to access the benefits without pre-certification or a medical diagnosis of infertility. This disparity calls for a reevaluation of the limitations these policies impose.

Exacerbating Disparities: Exclusive Fertility Benefits and Economic Challenges

Family-building is a unique journey for everyone, and especially so for the LGBTQIA+ population. The LGBTQIA+ community relies on a combination of assisted reproductive technologies and resources to have children, which can cost upwards of $200,000 without insurance coverage. The high costs associated with building a family without coverage lead to valid concerns and potential financial strain. Individuals often resort to taking on significant debt to access services or seeking less clinically sound advice in order to conceive. The Progyny survey highlighted that 77% of those trying to expand their families are worried about the cost, and 81% would take on a second job to secure employer-sponsored family-building care. In their pursuit of limited benefits, many individuals may cut corners, compromising their health. For example, transferring multiple embryos during in vitro fertilization (IVF) is often seen as a workaround to increase the chances of pregnancy success, but this method actually leads to a higher rate of medical complications, such as miscarriages and preterm deliveries. It’s crucial to understand the socioeconomic disadvantages already faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals, including earning 89 cents for every dollar earned by heterosexual workers. Income disparities are even greater for LGBTQIA+ workers who are people of color, women, or transgender. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that building a family doesn’t jeopardize one’s physical or economic well-being.

Inclusive Healthcare benefits: A Necessity for Employers

It is imperative that employers take steps to eliminate the inequities in coverage and make a permanent impact on the health of their LGBTQIA+ employees and their organizations as a whole. Limited and inequitable access to care leads to decreased productivity in the workplace, and complications in treatment can result in more missed days from work. To achieve inclusive healthcare benefits, employers need to educate themselves about LGBTQIA+ culture, history, and current issues. Staying up-to-date on the latest legislation impacting this community ensures that workplaces and health benefits actively embrace inclusivity. Employers and HR leaders must have a comprehensive understanding of the benefits they provide to avoid implementing the limitations often embedded in traditional insurance plans. As plan sponsors, these decision-makers must address the needs of their historically marginalized employees, who have faced discrimination and health care or income inequities. Employers have the potential to make a critical difference in the lives of their LGBTQIA+ employees by providing inclusive, non-discriminatory fertility and family-building benefits. By closing the equity gap in this area, companies can create positive ripple effects throughout their entire culture and contribute to more inclusive healthcare practices on a larger scale.

Janet Choi, M.D., is Progyny’s chief medical officer. Cynthia McEwen is VP of people and head of DEI at Progyny.

(Note: The opinions expressed in this Fortune.com commentary piece are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.)

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