First-class benefits for teachers

Jan. 7—The Wilson County School Board is considering adding fertility treatment to the list of benefits that the district offers its employees.

Wilson County Schools Director of Human Resources Rebecca Owens said that there’s been employees who have expressed wanting to leave the district due to the lack of fertility benefits.

“Believe it or not, this is something that has been brought to me by a few teachers,” Wilson County Director of Schools Jeff Luttrell said. “I know of a couple that have even left our district over this very thing and came and talked to me about just the cost associated with it, that they had to make a decision to leave the district they loved.”

Since being alerted to the desire for fertility benefits for its employees, the district has looked into the possibility of adding those benefits and has spoken with a consultant, who suggested that they talk to Progyny.

“We talk about building benefits and retaining teachers, and I want the first-class benefits,” Luttrell said. “I think that this is a part of it that puts us out there to show that we’re committed to, if you work for us as a teacher, then we’ll give you the best benefits that we possibly can.”

Jan Brackett, the director of business development at Progyny (which is a third-party insurance company that manages an inclusive fertility benefit plan known as a Smart Cycle), is a native Tennessean, and she presented the company’s benefit program to the school board during their work session on Thursday night.

“It’s happening more in your population than you think,” Brackett said. “One in five is diagnosed with infertility. That’s a higher prevalence than diabetes, asthma, or depression.”

Despite infertility being an omnipresent issue, it’s still not routinely covered by health plans.

“If someone is not able to have a child, they’re going to do whatever they can to in order to have a child,” Brackett said. “They’re going to take money out of their 401K, take out a second mortgage on their home, (or) take out another credit card in order to pay for treatments.”

Because of the lack of coverage by employers, individuals facing infertility who are trying to have a child will often make treatment decisions based on cost. This can lead to increased instances of twins or triplets, high-risk maternity claims, neonatal intensive care unit stays due to premature births, and readmissions of those premature infants.

“This is something that has become top-of-mind for a lot of companies now,” Brackett said. “It’s not just a disease that affects women. A third of the time, infertility affects men … third of the time it affects men, and a third of the time it affects a combination of the two, or it’s unexplained.”

In addition to these statistics, African American women are twice as likely to experience infertility while being half as likely to seek treatment.

“This is a type of benefit that’s going to help you not only make your culture stronger but really provide an inclusive benefit for everyone,” Brackett said.

Brackett described fertility benefits as a “must have” to aid in teacher retention.

“Years ago, one of my first jobs was being a teacher, and I can’t imagine walking into a classroom every day, teaching other people’s children and not being able to have your own,” Brackett said.

Many employees leave their employers to seek out a job with fertility benefits. With Metro Nashville schools offering this benefit and being so close by, adding the benefit to the health plans of teachers will help attract and retain employees.

The benefits package would support two Smart Cycles, which are bundles of services, tests and medications needed for particular treatments.

Zone 7 board member and board chairperson Jamie Farough supported the idea of adding fertility benefits to the Wilson County Schools health plan.

“I think it’s great, because if somebody has those benefits, even if through those two cycles they don’t have success, they could try again on their own, whereas they would currently be trying on their own dime completely,” Farough said.

Zone 1 school board member Carrie Pfeiffer agreed with Farough in that fertility benefits would help their employees.

“Perhaps it’s a smaller benefit that others might offer, but it’s better than offering no benefit at all,” Pfeiffer said. “The opportunity is certainly there for us to increase the benefit that’s offered in the long run.”

The addition of fertility benefits will be discussed again at the upcoming Wilson County Board of Education meeting on Monday night.