Tammy Sun: Making Fertility Affordable with Carrot
As 30 approached the question on whether I ever wanted to have kids only grew louder in my head.
You see I’ve never been one that was absolutely definite on the whole wanting children thing. Some days it was a “yes” other days it was a “nope.” My indecisiveness only reaffirmed my one thought, if there is one thing I know it’s that I’m not ready.
Though I may not be ready I also knew that my body was giving me a small window of time in which I could make this decision. That’s why I really started looking into fertility preservation, aka freezing my eggs. However, the sheer price of egg freezing is one to leave you asking just how bad do you someday want the option of maybe having kids?
This is how I met and got to speak with Tammy Sun, one of the Co Founders and CEO of Carrot. A company that makes it easy for other companies to give employees fertility benefits. Benefits that include coverage for everything like fertility testing, egg freezing, IVF, as well as adoption and surrogacy.
Seen on CNN, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed, and The Economist, Carrot is on its way towards changing the way we think and look about fertility benefits when it comes to our health care.
HOW DID CARROT COME TO BE?
When I was working at a company called Evernote, we had great benefits. So I didn’t have any expectation that fertility would be different when I decided to freeze my eggs. I Googled a name of a clinic, I walked in and as it turns out my insurance card was denied. So I swapped out my insurance card for my credit card and 40,000 dollars later I had 12 frozen eggs. But it really bothered me that women in particular were being forced to pay out of pocket for an aspect of health care that really should be included as a standard part of compensation at work. Employers in America hold a very unique position in the health care system, 155 million people in America get their health care benefits through their employers. That is more than Medicaid and Medicare combined, so that’s more than the government. It’s important to think about what is “standard” when it comes to health care at work? For me, my network, my friends, my family and certainly for the younger generation we think about fertility as a standard part of health and not a luxury good. So Carrot was born out of a desire to make it really easy for companies to be able to deliver this as part of their standard health care benefit.
WHAT WAS YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE LIKE WITH FERTILITY TREATMENT?
It was a huge sticker sock and a big decision if I wanted to pursue treatment because the cost of the total treatment would’ve been half of my saving. On the one hand I’m very lucky that I had that much money to be able to pay for an aspect of health care that I considered a priority, most people don’t. But it was still difficult to make that financial decision, $35,000 can buy you a Tesla. But looking at this over time I had to make a personal calculation that it wasn’t just $35,000 today, it as potentially $150,000 in 30 years. And what can that money do in a mutual fund, what can it do in the stock market, what could that money do if I were to invest it in other ways? So it was very stressful from a financial perspective and from the experience of it as well. The clinic was very focused on my medical care and they weren’t really focused on helping me fully understand what was going on.
HOW WAS IT FOR YOU GOING THROUGH ALL OF THAT?
It was upsetting. It was emotionally upsetting, financially upsetting. I had a pretty bad reaction to the hormonal medications and at the time there was still quite a bit of stigma around not just infertility but around egg freezing. So I was only able to talk about it to a couple of close friends and I definitely didn’t talk publicly about it. But I think that for most people, if it’s not a benefit that happens at work, if it’s not something you’re hearing people talk about you sort of assume this is something that isn’t talked about in open settings. So my experience felt pretty isolating.
HOW IS CARROT SOLVING THESE PROBLEMS?
When I looked at the problem as a whole it was very important that we solve one major problem first, which was affordability. And what I believe is when you can solve the affordability problem for people then you earn their permission to solve other problems related to experience.
YOU SPOKE ABOUT SIGMAS THAT COME WITH THE SUBJECT OF FERTILITY, WHAT ARE SOME?
I think fertility has been considered a disease that is particularly your fault. The reasoning behind this, which I don’t agree with, is that if you don’t have kids at the right time where your body is capable of having kids, call it 20 or 25, then it’s your fault you’re facing infertility and therefore access to infertility services and treatments are a lifestyle choice and a luxury good. And I think that this framing has been very harmful for how we talk about this with each other. For the first time in America more women above the age of 30 are having children than women under 30. What you’re seeing is a huge demographic shift in how people think about pursuing having a child. It’s also these demographic shifts that are pushing the way we think about fertility, less about infertility and more as fertility. These shifts aren’t just being seen here in the U.S. but all around the world which is really opening up conversations and having us relook at old stigmas and breaking them down and building new conversations that are more proactive and positive.
HOW DO WE GET OUR EMPLOYERS TO CONSIDER CARROT?
Most people are increasingly comfortable going to talk to HR teams. I think increasingly you’re seeing products and services for people that cover these subjects so if you are noticing for yourself or a colleague at work that fertility is not covered as part of your health plan or your health benefits then consider going to talk to your HR team. We’ve seen a lot of employees band together and speak out on behalf of themselves and also their colleagues. Especially, with same sex couples or LGBT couples who need access to fertility care in order to preserve or pursue building their families.
The subject of fertility and infertility are not going anywhere anytime soon. As the majority of people wait to have children the up tick of this trend will only increase in demand. Finding companies to help make this process easier is one step in the right direction on a new look for this aspect of health care.
To look into getting Carrot at your place of work check out their website.