Walmart teams up with Kindbody to expand fertility benefits for US employees

Walmart, the largest employer in the U.S., is teaming up with fertility startup Kindbody to offer benefits under its insurance plan that will help its workers expand their families.

Walmart Associates and their dependents who are enrolled in a self-insured Walmart medical plan will now have access to Kindbody's services including fertility assessments and education, fertility preservation, genetic testing, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI).

Walmart's employees will have access to more than 30 state-of-the-art Kindbody clinics across the U.S., including a new clinic and IVF lab in Rogers, Arkansas that will provide comprehensive virtual, at-home and in-clinic care. The new facility is expected to open later this year.

The expanded services build on Walmart's Center of Excellence model, which provides benefit support and coverage for certain heart, spine and joint surgeries and cancer treatments.

“Providing access to high-quality health care is very important to us, and we’ve heard from our associates that improved access to fertility, surrogacy and adoption support is a priority for them and their families,” said Kim Lupo, senior vice president, Walmart Global Total Rewards, in a statement. “Through Kindbody, Walmart associates in every corner of the country will have access to a variety of services to aid in their family-planning journey.”

With the current fight labor market, many large employers are expanding family support benefits to help employees with adoptions or cover services like fertility treatments. As Walmart is the largest employer in the U.S., the company's size and scale could help highlight the value of fertility benefits for employees.

The expanded offerings come after Walmart in August built out more abortion benefits following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Kindbody's partnership with Walmart signals that "fertility benefits have joined medical, dental, and vision as standard workplace benefits for leading employers," said Gina Bartasi, founder and chairwoman of Kindbody in a statement.

A survey from benefits consultant Mercer in 2021 found 42% of large companies, with 20,000 or more employees, covered IVF in 2020, compared to 36% in 2015, and 19% covered egg freezing, up from 6% in 2015.

"We’re incredibly honored to become a Walmart Center of Excellence and provide high-quality care to Walmart associates, furthering our mission to make fertility and family-building care affordable and accessible for all," she said.

Kindbody offers virtual, at-home and in-person services for fertility and family-building, including in vitro fertilization, genetic testing, surrogacy services and adoption. Founded in 2018, the company works with more than 100 employers, covering more than 2.2 million lives. Kindbody's clinical team includes board-certified reproductive endocrinologists and senior embryologists.

Kindbody has raised $190 million in funding from investors including Perceptive Advisors, GV (formerly Google Ventures), RRE Ventures, Claritas Health Ventures, Rock Springs Capital, NFP Ventures, and TQ Ventures.

In February, the company acquired Vios Fertility Institute and its network of clinics in a deal that propelled the company to unicorn status at a $1.15 billion valuation. In June, the company scooped up Phosphorus Labs to bring genetic testing in-house.

Through the partnership with Walmart, Kindbody will also be available to help eligible associates access Walmart’s surrogacy and adoption benefits, as well. These Walmart benefits include financial support of up to $20,000, lifetime max, for eligible surrogacy and adoption expenses. Walmart benefits will continue to include enhanced maternity and parental leave for qualified full-time hourly and salaried associates that allows birth moms to receive up to 16 weeks of paid time off. New parents, including adoptive and foster parents, also receive six weeks paid parental leave to bond with a new child, according to the company.

Over the last dozen years, the fertility industry has more than doubled their success rates from roughly 30% success to 60%+ success per IVF transfer; and those success rates are mostly consistent across U.S. practices, Kindbody's Bartasi wrote in a blog post.

But historically, IVF was for a privileged few who could add a second mortgage to their home to pay for treatment or borrow from parents to cosign a loan, she wrote.

There was virtually no state-mandated coverage and no employer coverage.

On average, IVF costs well over $20,000 when one includes the cost of treatment and medication, according to FertilityIQ, which provides research on fertility treatments, doctors and clinics.

"Despite success rates improving dramatically and at parity across the country, the cost for IVF remains prohibitively high. Demand for treatment is outstripping supply causing fertility practices to keep prices artificially inflated with long wait lists," she wrote."A tremendous divide remains for a privileged few who can afford to have the family of their dreams versus those that cannot. And historically, that’s been true for employers too with only a small percentage in a position to sponsor fertility coverage for their employees."

Walmart and other innovative employers are disrupting how employers pay for care by taking insurers out of the equation and contracting directly with leading provider groups such as Geisinger, the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Virginia Mason, and now Kindbody, Bartasi wrote.

The partnership with Walmart accelerates Kindbody's "mission to democratize care and to provide fertility coverage for all," she said.

Walmart has approximately 2.3 million employees across the world and employs about 1.6 million people in the U.S.