After a year of trying to start a family, Denver teacher Alison Yocum Johanson’s doctor told her that her next step in trying to get pregnant is in vitro fertilization.
But when Yocum Johanson asked Denver Public Schools’ human resources department if her insurance plan covered IVF, she was told it does not.
“It’s just too darn expensive,” an HR department staff member said in a voicemail to Yocum Johnanson that she shared with Chalkbeat. “Even with the new state mandate, schools are allowed to opt out if they would like to. So we have opted out of participating in covering it.”
The new state mandate is a law passed by Colorado legislators in April. Starting Jan. 1, it requires large employer health benefit plans to cover the cost of fertility treatments, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
But there’s a catch. Exempt from state law are large employers like Denver Public Schools whose health benefit plans are self-funded, meaning that the employer takes on the risk, collects the premiums, and pays the insurance claims.
Yocum Johanson had no idea that her Kaiser insurance plan, which covers both her and her husband, was self-funded. It’s not uncommon for employees not to know. Employers often contract with an insurance company like Kaiser to process claims or run a nurse advice line, and employees’ insurance cards will have the name of that company on them.
The initial shock of discovering she’d need IVF was compounded when she learned its cost would not be covered or shared by the district where she has worked for a decade.
“You have a workforce of mainly women who give their all to make sure the children of this community are taken care of, are loved, are taught,” said Yocum Johanson, who teaches fifth grade at Trevista at Horace Mann elementary school in northwest Denver. “To see that the women who are doing this work are not taken care of by their employers, it feels really unfair. It feels a bit like a betrayal.”
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Chalkbeat Colorado is a nonprofit news organization covering education issues. For more, visit co.chalkbeat.org.