Health insurance too expensive? Glow lets you crowdfund your employee’s baby

Sometimes it takes a village just to conceive.
Sometimes it takes a village just to conceive.
Image: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco
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Today, Glow CEO Mike Huang announced that his app, which uses data tracking to help couples conceive, will now be offered to companies as an alternative method of insuring employees who are monitoring their fertility.

Glow First, the app’s not-for-profit premium service, has users contribute $50 a month. This goes into a funding pool that they can access for infertility-related treatments after 10 months of trying to get pregnant. But with Glow Enterprise, corporations will absorb these costs—allowing their employees to access the funding without contributing themselves. The model, Huang told Quartz, is one he hopes to see applied elsewhere soon.

“Health care is huge,” he said, “and we’ve got to start somewhere.” He maintains that the health care surrounding fertility is underserved, and he’s right: Only 15 states in the US require insurance plans that cover the costs of birth to cover the costs of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other therapies. A single cycle of IVF costs $12,400 on average, and many women require more than one cycle to get pregnant. Huang wouldn’t say just how employers are paying—whether they’re getting a monthly bill for employees on the service or agreeing to pay a lump sum—but the goal, he said, is to allow employees to conceive naturally as often as possible, and to cover their expenses if they can’t.

Employees won’t need to tell their supervisors that they’re trying to get pregnant, Huang said. When an employee (male or female) is trying to conceive, they can download the app and enter either their work email or a photo of a pay stub to verify their employment. Once their employer is confirmed, they have free access to Glow First. Employers will only see aggregate numbers at the end of the month.

Eventbrite, Evernote, and Domo will be the first companies to use the service. As Evernote and Eventbrite are located in California, a state that requires fertility treatment coverage, it’s not clear what they stand to gain from using Glow Enterprise—unless the companies are self-insured, and would otherwise pay for such services themselves. Domo is located in Utah, a state that doesn’t require coverage, so their sign-on makes more sense.

“We’re leveraging employers known as progressive,” Huang said, “and for these employers, there’s been a big focus on overall health and wellness in employees.” The app, which has three settings—one for avoiding pregnancy, one for keeping tabs on fertility, and one for actively trying to get pregnant—sits well with that idea. “Employees can get into Glow’s program early,” Huang said, “and learn about their health so they can have a better handle on their “timing” if they decide to have a baby.” The goal, he said, is actually to lower the number of employees who even need medical intervention to conceive.

Whether or not that works remains to be seen: With only a few months of data, Huang says that “thousands of babies” have been born through Glow, but doesn’t give a solid success rate yet. And since users need to attempt to conceive for 10 months before tapping into Glow First, there’s no word on whether that aspect of the app has been a success.