Monday, February 29, 2016

Why big companies are better, infertility treatment edition

Also in this week's C&EN, letters to the editor about Linda Wang's article on chemists and infertility:
...Unfortunately, I also found that many employers, including mine, offer no benefit beyond “the diagnosis of infertility”—that is, they do not cover the most effective treatment of the disorder: assisted reproduction. However, I was quite heartened to find that a meaningful portion of companies across the chemical industry, such as Dow Chemical, Monsanto, Chevron, and Merck, reportedly offer some infertility coverage. Within big pharma, almost 70% of the 13 companies for which I could find detailed information offered some form of a reproductive health benefit. Generally, the benefit was limited to a lifetime maximum benefit of $10,000 to $25,000. It is reasonable to expect employers to limit their exposure to financial risk, but even a limited benefit is a huge opportunity to a devastated employee. 
After having spent my twenties in subsistence living in graduate school earning my Ph.D., I find myself in my thirties trying to start saving for retirement and a home and worrying about an old car. Infertility is by its very nature a disease that strikes in the early part of one’s career. When I’m asking my employer to offer a comprehensive reproductive health benefit, I’m not asking for the moon. I’m asking for a chance.
Name withheld upon request
Does anyone think that the named companies are going to hiring more scientists or fewer scientists in the next ten years?

It's a sad confluence of events for Ph.D. scientists of a certain generation. Graduate school in the sciences (and the inevitable postdoc) entails a delaying of marriage, children, "a real job" with an income approaching the median household income in the US, home purchases and all the other life decisions that make up an middle-to-upper-middle income life in the US. Those delays extend well into one's early-to-mid thirties. To leave academia and enter into a world where fewer and fewer companies are large enough and willing to offer health benefits like these to their employees is a tragedy indeed. 

10 comments:

  1. CJ: Your long range forecast spot on. Sadly, the prognosis is going worse as years roll on. The politicians are conning around and yet no tangible discussion during the present election cycle on the accelerated disappearance of the so called middle class in the US! Unfortunately activists are dominating on the either spectrum (that we know will not work and as they come they all are snake oil salesman) and the others are rendered irrelevant. Suffice it to say that I am disenfranchised this election cycle and haplessly watching events unfold!

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  2. While I have no data to back this up, I would assume the same issues with infertility are common in every competitive field that requires extended education. It may be harsh, but life's all about choices....

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    1. I disagree, in that medical school is still 4 years long and law school is still 3 years long, while graduate education just keeps getting extended and extended via postdocs, etc.

      (Of course, med school has residencies and law school has clerkships, but between the length of education getting longer and the relative benefits getting smaller, it's not a good deal, w/r/t to issues of reproduction.)

      I agree wholeheartedly that life is about tradeoffs.

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  3. ART coverage is required by law in MA and a handful of other first-tier states. Something to consider when job-hunting.

    Most cases of infertility can't be traced to one specific cause, so it's not necessarily age that's to blame.

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    1. Fair enough, re: age, that's a good point.

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    2. It's an issue most people don't think about until they need to, at which point the cause is often irrelevant.

      This:
      http://www.resolve.org/family-building-options/insurance_coverage/state-coverage.html
      is a good overview. Very few states cover IVF.

      Like I said, Mass is really the gold-standard (and the one I'm familiar with :D). No dollar limits or limits on # of treatment cycles (or small-business exemptions). From my memory, I think NJ, IL, and MD were also Pretty Good. That covers a great big swath of pharma/NIH/academic space.

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    3. Companies with self-insured plans (very common for large companies) don't need to follow the state mandates, so working in MA, NJ, etc doesn't guarantee infertility treatment coverage.

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    4. Regardless of the cause of infertility, age does play a roll when you delay child bearing because it shortens the clock. You have less time to prepare and save for this monkey wrench life threw at you.

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  4. Isn't this much of why jobs are shifting to smaller companies? The song of the last forty years, with pensions, health care, training, and benefits has been about shifting costs onto employees without increasing pay proportionately, and in getting states and local governments to bargain themselves out of either the power to demand their provision or the money to provide them themselves (or anything else). (To be fair, we seem to keep asking for it, both in what we buy and how we vote, so there's that.)

    Given that (mostly) businesses do not see their employees as partners but as costs, there doesn't seem to be good reason to expect that this story and its ilk will become less common.

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  5. I was diagnosed with poor ovarian reserve and very bad prognosis of having a baby with my own eggs. I was even given the option to consider donor eggs. That was around july 2014. I was absolutely devastated with the news and I arranged an IVF for November 2014 and it failed also, given that I had nothing to lose, I contacted Dr.Agbazara i meet online and he send me his herbal product,. Believe it or not... I am already pregnant within few after his help. contact him today with any kind of problem and be happy like me on ( agbazara@gmail.com )

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