Thanks for following along with our “Spotlight Series,” highlighting forward-thinking employers and the influential work they’re doing in the benefits space. Keep reading to uncover best practices from key decision makers in HR & Benefits.
We interviewed Lindsey Conon, a Health & Benefits Senior Consultant at Willis Towers Watson, to better understand why more employers are placing even greater importance on maternity benefits, and how Ovia Health may be a solution for employers to consider as part of their benefits package.
With more than 40,000 employees in 140 countries, Willis Towers Watson strives to create solutions that allow employers to optimize benefits for improved performance. Lindsey is especially attuned to the issues employers face around fertility, pregnancy and parenting. “We solve employers’ problems. Whether it’s an issue around maternity spend or what their parental leave policies are, we help employers design, implement, price, and manage those programs,” Lindsey explains.
And a problem solver she is. The Brooklynite has more than 12 years experience with the global advisory, broking, and solutions company. As a new mom herself and a user of Ovia Health, Lindsey believes the women’s healthcare company has the potential to reduce healthcare spend, improve clinical outcomes and foster a family-friendly culture intended to empower and support families from conception to parenthood. She works collaboratively to develop meaningful partnerships with health technology companies like Ovia Health to bring innovative solutions to the market.
The market is ever evolving. According to Forbes, by 2025 more than 75% of the workforce will be millennials, and already more than half of today’s workforce is women. With this generation of workers valuing work-life integration more than ever, gone are the days when employers could offer maternity leave and have that be enough. “There is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to maternity benefits,” says Lindsey. “It’s not about a single benefit an employer offers, but the entire suite. Different people value different benefits.”
Ensuring companies offer an array of benefits is only part of the solution, however. Fertility and pregnancy-related healthcare spending remains one of the largest expenses for employers. “Maternity continues to be a top five driver of cost,” explains Lindsey. “From a medical perspective, traditionally employers have offered maternity management programs that are mail or telephone-based with low engagement. Today, employers are realizing that emerging programs like Ovia Health are engaging people through technology and customization for a more relevant experience with an even bigger impact.”
The CDC reports that one in ten babies is born prematurely, totaling $26.2 billion in preterm birth costs. What’s even more astounding is the cost difference between a preterm and full birth, which averages between $68,000 for a preterm birth and $19,000 for a full-term vaginal birth.
The good news is that many of these hard costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth can be avoided with changes to the benefits plan design and employee awareness and education. Lindsey is relentless in driving this issue home with her clients. She uses Ovia Health as an example, “If Ovia Health can help even one family avoid multiples by conceiving naturally, the chances of having a preterm birth decrease significantly, saving the employer upwards of hundreds of thousands in NICU costs alone,” explains Lindsey. “This priority is supported in the 2017 Willis Towers Watson Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey, where 53% of employers indicated that they will focus on maternity/infertility as a means of improving member health and reducing costs over the next three years.”
In addition to the direct medical and pharmaceutical fees associated with pregnancy and childbirth, employers also need to consider the costs spent on benefits like short term disability and leaves of absences. Bright Horizons reports that 43% of women don’t return to work after giving birth, and the price of employee turnover as a percentage of their salary is 213%, according to the Center for American Progress.
When it comes down to how companies can lower these costs, Willis Towers Watson encourages clients to view maternity by looking at the big picture – from pre-conception through postpartum. Lindsey explains that patient education is critical. “This is where a program like Ovia Health comes in. You want people to understand all the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth, so that they can have that conversation with their provider and become as educated of a consumer as possible.”
Lindsey admits that Ovia’s ability to go above and beyond leads to increased employee engagement and lower maternity costs. Not only are women and families logging in several times a day, but the use of Ovia expands their engagement with other benefits. “Because Ovia Health acts as a hub for all company information, employees are better able to find the resources they need. Most employers do offer great benefits, but their employees don’t know how to access them,” Lindsey concludes. “Ovia has the ability to increase engagement in other programs, which makes for a more informed workforce and lower healthcare costs overall.”
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