December 18, 2014 — Women's health advocates say it is rare that employers offer infertility coverage that includes egg freezing in their health plans, even for women who have serious medical conditions that could affect their fertility, Kaiser Health News reports.
KHN notes that recent media coverage of decisions by some large companies to cover egg freezing has focused on whether such policies send an implicit message that women are expected to delay childbearing if they want to advance their careers. However, women seeking egg freezing often do so because of illness- or age-related infertility.
Egg freezing can be costly. For example, KHN profiles a Los Angeles woman who paid $12,000 for the egg retrieval procedure and pays an additional $300 annually for her eggs to be stored.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine two years ago issued revised practice guidelines stating that egg freezing is no longer considered experimental because research has shown that pregnancy and fertilization rates from frozen eggs are similar to those for fresh eggs. In addition, research found that children born from frozen eggs do not have a higher likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities or birth defects.
Coverage Not Widely Offered
ASRM Executive Director Richard Reindollar noted that insurance coverage for infertility treatments using frozen eggs is still not widely provided. He said, "Of all the disease processes, insurance coverage is available for essentially all of them, but not for infertility."
Meanwhile, America's Health Insurance Plans spokesperson Susan Pisano said the group has not surveyed insurers on the coverage but she believes many plans cover egg freezing if a woman is diagnosed with a fertility problem or is at risk because of medical treatments like chemotherapy. However, it is less common that insurers cover egg freezing for nonmedical reasons, she said.
An annual Mercer study of employer benefits found that about one-third of companies with at least 500 employees do not provide infertility coverage. The survey found that technology companies were more likely to offer the coverage, with 45% covering in vitro fertilization and 27% covering other advanced reproductive procedures, such as egg freezing, compared with 26% and 14% at other companies, respectively (Andrews, Kaiser Health News, 12/16).