Don’t Leave It at Leave: Rethinking Maternity Health Benefits for a Happier, Healthier Workforce

This article was originally published Oct. 9 on LinkedIn. You can see the original article here.

Maternity and parental leave have been topics of discussion of late: in politics, in the media, and, of course, in boardrooms across the country. But let’s face it. It’s one thing to have a good leave policy, it’s another to truly support and invest in employees. In order to do so, employers must move beyond maternity leave – and take action on maternity benefits.

Fortunately, many employers are doing just that and finding it provides tremendous value.

Giving birth marks one of life’s most important – yet complex and trying – milestones for many women and families. The health risks alone are enough of a concern, as a recent analysis showed that hospitals across the country have a long way to go to meet maternity care quality standards. And, among privately insured women ages 19-44, childbirth accounts for the majority of all U.S. hospitalizations.

Mothers are a vital part of the workforce. Both employers and their employees have a shared interest in seeing them at work, as productive, and as mentally and physically well as possible throughout the journey of motherhood.

Take it from me, when many mothers begin their journey to motherhood they simply don’t know what they don’t know. It’s a time when personal, professional, and, importantly, health concerns all add pressure. With all of this, mothers and families can feel overwhelmed. Mothers need the support, information, and tools that empower them to navigate this health care and personal journey.

Employers, who provide health insurance and benefits for 151 million Americans, can help solve this, by giving mothers and families the support they need. This begins with an appropriate leave policy and a great health plan. But, too many companies stop here, leaving employees to figure out the rest on their own. And, employees notice, as a new survey found that 30 percent of women don’t feel supported by their maternity benefits.  

To truly provide great benefits, companies must also help their employees understand and navigate their healthcare journey. Beginning as early as when they make their first appointment with a doctor, expectant mothers have a lot to consider.  

For example, at Castlight we found that the cost of childbirth not only ranges depending on where you live in the country, but can even vary across the neighborhood. Within the San Francisco area, where I live, the cost of a delivery can vary up to four times depending on which hospital I choose. Making matters worse, is that in health care cost and quality are not inherently related.

In order to make smart decisions, employers must provide employees health care cost and quality transparency information and care guidance tools to find and select the best care and provider. The same survey found that 43 percent of women place top-value on employer programs to help them navigate the maternal health system.

Employers can take it a step further too, as today, the digital health revolution has spurred countless innovative, new digital solutions that engage employees in all aspects of their health and wellbeing. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, employers can help mothers feel informed and in control with tools that help them manage every part of their journey.

For some mothers this may include managing family finances with financial wellbeing apps, or adjusting their diets with nutritional tracking programs, or managing the stresses of motherhood with behavioral health solutions. In maternity health specifically, Ovia’s apps engage mothers with insights and digital tools from fertility, to pregnancy, to parenting.

When employers put in place a strong health benefits program, supportive of mothers and their families, both employees and employers see the value. Employers can help employees access the right education sources, find the right providers, and experience better health outcomes, while controlling costs for both the employee and employer.

At Castlight, we bring all of this together through a health navigation platform to create a complete maternal health experience. Our platform allows employers to communicate and engage employees in maternity benefits so that both employer and their employees can experience the promise of happier, healthier mothers and families.

For more on how employers can redefine their maternity benefits, check out our webinar.