Starting a family? Company profits favor IVF over adoption

Sarah Mahalchick and her future husband talked on one of their first dates about wanting to adopt. There were many children who needed parents, they told each other from the beginning.

But when they were ready to expand their family, they opted for fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization. It seemed to make sense: Ms. Mahalchick’s employer would pay for a large portion of the treatments through her health insurance; he offered almost no adoption assistance.

Fertility benefits are becoming almost all the rage at top-of-the-line companies, with more companies offering to help with the costs of IVF and egg freezing. But in many cases, companies offering fertility benefits do not provide financial assistance to employees who want to adopt, and when they do, the adoption benefits are often much less generous.

Estimates of how many companies offer fertility or adoption benefits are confusing. Most employers don’t give any. But the gap is clear.

Nate and Lauren Serianni with their daughter. “Either way you can grow a family it is beautiful,” said Ms Serianni.


Shannon Livingston

The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that as of 2018, 27% of employers offered some form of infertility coverage and 11% offered adoption assistance. FertilityIQ, a website that offers courses and other information on building a family, regularly reviews the benefit disclosures of thousands of employers. In a report released Saturday, he estimates that only one in five companies that offer fertility coverage also offer adoption assistance.

Employers who provide fertility assistance offer benefits averaging about $ 36,000, according to FertilityIQ. Jake Anderson-Bialis, co-founder of FertilityIQ, said adoption benefits rarely exceed $ 10,000 and are typically much less.

The disparity hurts people who cannot or prefer not to undergo fertility treatments, including women discouraged by too many miscarriages and those who are drawn to adopt a child who is homeless. For gay men, fertility benefits are essentially useless without a substitute, and using one can easily cost $ 100,000 or more.

“It’s not like it’s the job of a company to support children in need of adoption,” said Adam Pertman, executive director of the National Center for Adoption and Permanency, a research and advocacy group. “But if they leveled the playing field to support employees no matter how they raise their families, it would have a great social consequence.

For Ms. Mahalchick, the two years she spent in fertility treatments were miserable. The hormones from IVF made her sick. She suffered multiple miscarriages. She and her husband spent about $ 10,000 on their share of the treatments. In January 2020, they quit.


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They are now seeking adoption and wish they had started earlier. “It’s stressful enough when you’re becoming a parent,” said Ms. Mahalchick, who lives in the Northeast. “But adoption is treated like a luxury.”

Both adoption and fertility treatments are out of reach for many families. Adopting a child can easily cost $ 50,000 or more. (The exception is adopting a foster home, where financial costs are usually minimal.) A single round of IVF can cost $ 20,000 or more, and many women need multiple rounds.

Lauren Serianni of Tampa, Florida, said she was discouraged that her husband’s employer was willing to pay the bill for three cycles of IVF, a benefit that is easily worth $ 60,000, but would pay only $ 3,000 for an adoption. She and her husband spent more than 10 times that to adopt their daughter, who is now one year old.

“Any way you can grow a family it is beautiful,” said Ms Serianni. “It shouldn’t be, ‘If it’s not genetically yours, then we won’t pay for it.’ “

In 2018, about 80,000 children were born in the US using IVF and other fertility treatments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That same year, Americans adopted about 85,000 unrelated children, according to the National Council for Adoption, an advocacy group.

Companies that have introduced generous fertility benefits often say they are responding to employee demand. IVF and egg freezing have become part of the white-collar zeitgeist in a way that adoption has not.

Employers may also have logistical and financial reasons for offering fertility assistance that do not apply to adoption.

Fertility coverage, when offered, is generally provided under a health insurance plan, which means that coverage may be subject to regulations. At least 17 states have passed laws that require some insurers to cover or at least offer coverage for some infertility treatments.

Anita Jennison, with her daughter Sedona, is grateful for the adoption support of her old company.


Adrian roup

Some companies have decided that it is cheaper to pay for employee fertility treatments than to let employees perform them on their own, as employers may end up covering many of the related costs anyway. If an employer pays the IVF bill, it can specify, for example, that doctors implant only one embryo at a time.

That reduces the chances of having twins or triplets, where pregnancy and delivery are often complicated and expensive. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that delivering and caring for a single baby costs about $ 20,000 for insurers and patients. The twins cost $ 100,000; triplets, $ 400,000.

Adoption-related taxes can complicate things. For example, both an employer and an employee can get a tax break if an employee sets aside wages for health care or childcare expenses, but they won’t get the same relief if an employee sets aside wages for adoption costs, Mary Hevener said. . , compensation attorney at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

A few years ago, Morgan Lewis offered free assistance to corporate clients who might be interested in expanding their benefit plans to allow employees to set aside pre-tax wages for adoption.

“We promote all the numbers: ‘Look at all the children in foster care, look at all the employees you could help,’” Ms. Hevener said. “And what we heard was, ‘Hey, I guess.’ “

Anita Jennison, herself an adoptee, had wanted to adopt for a long time. In 2019, she joined lifestyle brand Goop in California and found that the company would reimburse employees for up to $ 60,000 in adoption expenses through Carrot Fertility, a benefits provider.

Ms. Jennison estimates that she spent nearly $ 80,000 to adopt her daughter, who is now one year old. He would have preferred to save for his daughter’s education. She has since left Goop, but is grateful for his financial support. He knows at least half a dozen families who are desperate to adopt but can’t afford it.

Before joining Goop, Ms. Jennison thought her path to motherhood was closed. “I never expected this to happen,” he said. “This is a godsend, because no one offers this.”

Write to Christina Rexrode at [email protected]

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