Why Microsoft revamped its fertility benefits plan

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control estimates about 3.8 million births happen each year. At Microsoft, the company sees close to 3,000 employee births a year, averaging about eight per day nationally.

While Microsoft has had fertility benefits as part of its offerings for nearly two decades, it’s package was no longer considered competitive in the fertility benefits space, Sonja Kellen, director of global health and wellness at Microsoft says.

When originally introduced, Microsoft offered a $15,000 lifetime sum per employee, to be used on fertility treatments. While the limit included both medical and prescription costs, it was flexible for employees to use on the fertility benefits they needed, she adds.

“We felt innovative at that time providing some level of services, but the benefit has remained relatively unchanged,” she says, speaking on a webinar hosted by the National Business Group on Health, Tuesday.

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A logo sits on display outside Microsoft Corp.'s new store in Berlin, Germany, on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. Microsoft Corp.'s board placed Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner on a three-person list of internal candidates to replace departing Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, said a person with knowledge of the process. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Employers are rapidly boosting fertility benefits to attract and retain talent. Research from Willis Towers Watson indicates percentage of employers offering fertility benefits to employees is expected to grow from 55% in 2017 to 66% in 2019. In the past year alone, Facebook, Cisco and MassMutual are among the employers who have boosted fertility packages. American Express, Pinterest and State Street have also revamped their benefits.

See also: Fertility benefits becoming hot retention tool for employers

That’s why two years ago, to shake things up, Microsoft partnered with the fertility benefits manager, Progyny, to further develop their fertility benefit program.

Progyny’s benefit plans are designed to improve outcomes, shorten time to pregnancy and reduce total fertility-related costs, Julie Stadlbauer, senior vice president of business development at Progyny says. The company works with employers including MassMutual and Facebook.

Infertility impacts about one in eight people, she adds, and the typical IVF cycle costs roughly $17,000 plus $8,000 in medication costs. On average, it takes a couple 2.2 cycles for a successful pregnancy, and most exhaust traditional coverage or savings before finding success, she adds.

The programs at Progyny are designed to be inclusive, supportive and effective for employee fertility, she says.

For example, she pointed to LGBTQ and single-by-choice employees who lacked access to traditional fertility benefits. Many programs require six months of infertility alongside unprotected, heterosexual intercourse, which is not something these workers could achieve.

See also: Fertility benefits: Going above and beyond

Progyny’s program uses a smart cycle benefit design, which allows employees to customize their plan. For example, an IVF freeze would cost three-fourths of a smart cycle and a frozen embryo transfer would cost one-fourth of a smart cycle, totalling one full cycle.

At Microsoft, Kellen says they provide workers a 2+1 smart cycle model, giving an employee three attempts to have a healthy baby. “If someone goes through two cycles and have a successful birth, the benefit is done,” she added.

Although Kellen says the new program is more expensive, something the company anticipated when overhauling their fertility benefit package, they have seen positive clinical outcomes. Within a year, there has been a 56% improvement in successful pregnancy rates and a 15-point drop in pregnancies with multiple births compared to their previous model.

“We do anticipate an increase over the first few years that will probably stay relatively stable going forward after that,” she adds.

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