Today, the University of Michigan announced inclusion of in vitro fertilization (IVF) in most health care plans, including Grad Care. This development is a direct result of a campaign of GEO’s Women’s Caucus during the 2013-2014 academic year.
The Women’s Caucus developed the Fertility Justice Campaign when member Katie Lelito approached GEO with her concerns. While her Grad Care covered the tests necessary to diagnose infertility, she found that it did not provide any options for treatment. By the time of this first meeting Katie had already completed a great deal of work and conducted a number of inquiries at UM offices, during which she was informed that fertility treatments were considered “cosmetic issues.” Those of us on the caucus found this information deeply unsettling but realized we knew little of the issues involved. Together, we embarked on months of research to educate ourselves of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and insurance coverage policies. The Caucus used this information to build support among other unions, campus organizations, and elected officials. We then worked together to educate UM and urge them to change health care policy. Thanks in large part to our efforts, UM added this important coverage to our health care benefits.
This victory is a critical step in making our health care coverage more supportive of those people who choose to combine parenthood and work in the academy. If universities are serious about encouraging the success of female scholars they must provide the tools women need to plan their families on their own terms and on their own schedules. The University of Michigan made a step in the right direction with this policy change.
We still have work to do. This new policy includes 80% coverage of IVF costs up to $20,000. It does not, however, provide for any coverage of intrauterine insemination (IUI). Most women trying to conceive using ARTs rely heavily on IUI and select IVF only after exhausting all other options. While IUI is much cheaper than IVF, it is still a costly procedure. The Women’s Caucus is hopeful that we can continue to focus attention on this issue and encourage further expansion of ARTs coverage.
The Fertility Justice Campaign provides a wonderful example of the types of changes GEO can bring about through channels other than the bargaining table. This victory is due in large part to one member who came to us and said, “Whatever else I do while I’m at UM, nothing would make me prouder than changing this policy.” Supported by a small but committed group of GEO activists, this campaign succeeded because it had a champion in Katie Lelito.