It’s Time to #StartAsking
So first of all I saw this on several pages and thought it was way cool. Then I went to the RESOLVE site and saw that it’s a blog contest where the winner…gets to write more blog post. How about sending an infertile blogger to the spa or something as a prize? Yep I’m cynical but a prize for blogging to me isn’t to do more blogging. At the very least, a massage. At the ideal, how about helping with the cost of infertility treatment? Now that’d be a prize, y’all.
And…my grumpy cynical diatribe is over.
The theme of the week is to start asking, which includes asking employers and lawmakers to add, improve, and/or mandate infertility treatment coverage. As my husband’s employer, a regional chain of natural grocers more popular than Whole Foods, boasts about their great benefits, yet doesn’t lift a finger for the 1 in 8 couples who struggle with this disease (while simultaneously covering the cost of much rarer treatments, including gender reassignment surgery – something I think should be covered, but doesn’t rank above a more common disease), I decided to send the following email to one of the benefits representatives to #SpeakUp, which I am sharing in case there are others who want to use a similar template to send to their employer or spouse’s employer:
I wanted to see if you knew (or could find out) why (company) will not cover infertility treatment in any way, shape or form. We have had to pay nearly $25,000 out of pocket in the past year for IUI (insemination) and IVF (in vitro) treatments due to infertility, and were pretty stunned at the onset to see that a diagnosis of infertility, defined as a disease by the World Health Organization that affects one in eight, seems to be unimportant to (company) – while much less common diagnoses/procedures (like gender reassignment surgery as a prime example) are covered.
As it is National Infertility Awareness Week, I wanted to bring this to your team’s attention as I know we’re not the only couple at (company) who have been battling this on our own, emptying our savings accounts and taking out loans because there is no health coverage in sight, while other mid to large size companies include this in their benefits, often adding an adoption rider as well to support families.
I urge (company) to please reconsider this egregious gap in their benefits plan going forward, so that all employees and their families have coverage to battle this disease as equitably as other diseases that are already covered.
And they responded:
“We feel proud that most areas of the plan meet or exceed benchmarks (state, regional, and national) in our industry, including a very low eligibility requirement. In 2015 24% of companies in our industry had full fertility coverage. We are not currently a leader in this category but our plan design in this area is not uncommon. The current plan design is a big puzzle of how to give the best coverage to our staff while keeping the premiums affordable. The reason that we are able to offer the gender reassignment surgery coverage because it has a very low cost impact to the plan.
I’m sorry that the plan does not currently cover full fertility treatments and that the cost to your family is so significant. Once a year in the Fall the benefits team reviews the plan design and claims data and sees what changes need or can be made. We collect staff and dependent feedback during the year and review it during that process. I will pass along your request to the Benefits & Compensation Manager, the Benefits Administrator, and our benefits brokers for consideration during the next plan design review. Thank you for your feedback.”
So, here’s what bothered me about this response:
- The first part seemed to be bragging about their supposed competitiveness with their benefits overall – NOT a sensitive way to respond. Telling me shitty fertility coverage is “not uncommon” is nowhere near being sensitive to my request or our situation.
- The tacky response about gender reassignment surgery shows that basically they only offer this coverage because they are assuming they don’t have to worry about people taking them up on the coverage and costing them money – i.e. because it’s rare (that surgery? covered at $25,000 – which happens to be the average price of two rounds of regular IVF, or the cost of one DEIVF + a few tries, like us). So basically they’re offering it as PR as they’re one of the few employers locally who offer it.
- The next part about reviewing plan design and claims data is irrelevant to the point because the fact is they will not obtain claims data on claims that are never filed because there is no benefits coverage in the first place! And not covering a common disease like this? Not acceptable no matter what the “plan design”. Ironically, she knows I’ve worked in HR for 18 years so I don’t need to be explained how benefits administration works. With the amount of work time lost due to treatment and emotional stress of infertility put upon families of their thousands of employees? This was an unacceptable response.
- Finally, they do not request any information throughout the year from employees about quality or selection of benefits, not even close. Considering I see all the information that comes in to my husband on their employee site and manage our benefits and we do the surveys together that come in, I know this wasn’t missed, and their one multiple choice survey for employee satisfaction gives no opportunity to talk about specific benefits coverage.
But hey, I spoke up, and that’s what’s important. I didn’t stay silent.
I also posted a news story about NIAW on LinkedIn about the poor level of coverage by most employers – yep, on my professional network (gasp! but really, enough professional contacts of mine read this that it’s really not so big of a deal for me since I’ve been blogging so long about this). Too many people are suffering in silence, and thousands are on LinkedIn while not everyone is on Twitter.
Next up will be to send a letter to our Governor, Kate Brown, and our local lawmakers, encouraging them to introduce legislation that will provide some type of mandate for coverage in our state, so we can become the 16th states that requires at least some type of coverage for infertility treatment.
When you’re a couple struggling with this, even doing this stuff is hard. After this back-and-forth today, I literally feel sick to my stomach.
Natural Killer (NK) test results…and decision
Well, all that hubbub to get my blood tested for the NK cells and the doc called yesterday to say those have come up normal as well. He agreed – with no hesitation – that he’d be fine, however, with my taking Prednisolone to prepare for transfer “just to be safe”.
It was a pit in my stomach to hear that there was no bad news, to be perfectly honest. Like many of my peers here who have received repeated bad news, you want to get some type of additional diagnosis to enable you to change your protocol, do SOMETHING different.
But we have committed to doing a 4th and truly final round, and are hoping that with the endo scratch and prednisone, that we will NOT be the ‘definition of insanity’…
Bills bills bills…
Will be interesting to see how much cash we’re going to have to cough up for this set of labs for the 3 blood draws. In one month we already used up our measly $2,500 FSA annual allowance to cover the last transfer and meds and still have expenses like eyeglasses and prescriptions out of pocket (not to mention transfer #4…
And oh yeah, this week finding out I’m going to need to get x-rays for a potential bone spur I might have in my foot because this plantar fasciitis is just getting worse (causing me to have to give up my new gym membership since I can’t do any type of major walking and step/zumba classes have been out of the question for 3 months now).
When it rains, it pours
I gotta say by midday yesterday I was already tired. Scheduled in for two coaching sessions, which I love doing, 5 minutes before the second one was to start, I got a call from the Swarm Hotline saying that a bee swarm needed to be caught. Now here’s the deal: if you don’t respond to the call/text within 2 minutes (seriously), they call the next person, and since it’s late April, and we’ve been waiting a month for the call, I stopped everything. My wonderful coaching client was super understanding and waited the extra 40 minutes for me and simply worked from the cafe.
So I called my beekeeping mentor so I could observe him doing the catch (husband was at work, this is not my area of specialty/expertise, AND the hotline was *supposed* to have scheduled a mentor to go with me, I was just lucky mine was available at that exact time as you have 2-3 hours max to stop everything and catch it), and it was a bit of a tough one. The swarm was very high up requiring a long ladder, and the property owner’s neighbor who made the swarm call and let us in left in the middle of it to take care of her baby. Basically I held the ladder, took a few photos, and watched as he did his best to stay safe while getting the swarm. He wasn’t able to cut off the branch for safety reasons so put the swarm right into the box from way up in the tree. I was in awe. Because we weren’t far from my house, he recommended we bring it back to my house now instead of leaving it in the box til dusk, so I trusted his advice. Of course, why wouldn’t I? I tried to be brave, not being great about having bees landing on me as I’d not gotten the proper apparel yet and not wanting to be jumpy while they crawled on me during the catch.
Talk about meditative breaths, y’all.
Well, turns out the neighbor who let us in forgot to come back and lock up after us, the swarm catcher didn’t quite get all the bees out of the tree and potentially left the queen behind, and the phone rang. The homeowner called me a few hours later and chewed me out, first saying I should have gotten a hold of her personally before going onto her property (even though she talked to her neighbor who’d made the swarm call and let us in), that we screwed up and didn’t get all the bees and the queen was up there and that because of what we did the bees were going to die, and that *I* should have known better and left the swarm box in their yard til dusk (it’s well known that for every 9 beekeepers there are 10 different opinions of how to do things). Even though she knew I was a brand new beekeeper who was just there observing, even though (while it was not technically my fault since I never unlocked anything in the first place) I apologized for not making sure the neighbor locked up, even though she’d already been connected with the swarm-catcher who I was with and had left him a message, she was really nasty and condescending. By the time I got off the phone, I was shaking and crying, I was so upset, basically being accused of leaving her yard open to burglars and aiding in the slaughter of thousands of bees.
Obviously I was on the phone with our bee mentor/swarm-catcher who was immediately trying to get a hold of the homeowner. First, he explained to us that the bees were NOT going to die and that they can actually last up to 3 days outside not in the hive (we had noticed the swarm was all congregating just outside the entrance to the hive and told him), and second, took ownership over his decision to move the swarm to our hive this afternoon and said he would do everything he could to either get the rest of the swarm reunited and check for a queen, and if that was impossible (depending on the homeowner’s mood) find a queen for us to join our swarm so we could get the existing bees.
So as of right now, we have no idea what’s going to happen with the bees. Halfway through the day I was giddy, having been part of a swarm capture, seen them in our backyard, and feeling the endorphin rush of being a new beekeeper, finally getting what my husband feels about it. By the end of the day I was worn out and worried mess, feeling unfairly bullied by the people we got the bees from. I’ve taken our names off the swarm list and reminded the swarm hotline so I won’t get any more surprise calls. Our mentor took full accountability and told the property owner that I should not be blamed at all, and promised me he’s going to make it right with the property owner to reunite the swarm and get us a good working colony, but man I was so fed up with life in general it was like a sucker punch. As of this morning, the gang o’ honeybees on our property are all still cuddled up on the outside of the hive…so we are cautiously optimistic that they’ll find a queen either here or there.
Cross fingers…it’d be so nice to have something go right! Just to focus on 10,000 or so little ones for once eh..? Anyhow, here’s a few photos from the adventure, from the swarm in the tree to our mentor geared up to the swarm box in the car to their current place in our backyard next to the hive entrance…