Global consulting and advisory firm Willis Towers Watson announced a new family and fertility package Tuesday to better help employers with expanding their family-friendly benefits.

The firm brought in digital-first vendors Ovia Health and Progyny to educate employees on various stages in pregnancy and to walk workers through the planning, pregnancy and early child caring stages, as well as offering advice about returning to work.

The service also aims to help employers develop a strategy and choose benefits to aid employees seeking to become parents through natural conception, artificial reproductive technology, adoption, surrogacy, as well as those looking to preserve their fertility, according to Willis Towers Watson.

“Employers are spending more of their healthcare dollars on maternity and fertility issues,” says Jeff Levin-Scherz, North American co-leader of Willis Towers Watson’s health management practice. “However, a significant portion of maternity costs can be prevented by focusing on the health of women before, during and after pregnancy.”

[Image: Bloomberg]
[Image: Bloomberg]

More than four in five (84%) employers offer maternity care management, with about a quarter of those companies adding a neonatal intensive care unit medical management program through their health plan, according to the Willis Towers Watson 2017 Maternity, Family and Fertility Survey released this month. Likewise, 1% of employers were offering the same neonatal benefit through an external vendor, according to the survey.

See also: TIAA expands paid parental leave

“Employers are not in the business of bringing solutions together,” says Lindsey Conon, a senior healthcare consultant at Willis Towers Watson. “Employers are offering or looking to offer benefits in the family-friendly space to be part of their inclusion and diversity initiatives and attract and retain key talent.”

The introduction of two digital-first vendors indicates a larger healthcare trend toward navigation- and advocacy-type services, she says.

In addition, virtual coaching for anything from lactation consulting to physical therapy is seen as an important supplement to standard family planning benefits and addresses a new parent in a modern way, she says.

The push toward extensive and inclusive parental leave policies and benefits in the corporate world is also occurring as Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration have blitzed Planned Parenthood, a federally funded nonprofit that provides reproductive healthcare services, and fought to limit access to abortions and contraception.

Despite this, nearly 100% of employers polled in the survey say they are planning to keep contraception coverage the same over the next few years.

“Employers want to offer choice to their benefits,” Conon says. “They want to enable people to make decisions best for them.”

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