Travel benefits for abortions growing rapidly among employers

Following a recent ruling by the US Supreme Court, the number of US employers offering travel for abortion services is likely to double in the next few years. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization The decision, according to a new survey by WTW.

Thirty-five percent of employers now provide travel and accommodation for abortions. Another 16 percent of employers plan to offer abortion travel benefits in 2023, while 21 percent are considering it, the survey found.

Forty-four percent of employers that offer or plan to offer travel benefits for abortions or other medical procedures have increased those benefits because of the court ruling. Another 46 percent plan or are considering increasing these benefits in the future, the WTW survey found.

“There are a lot of reasons at play that are both economic and ethical,” said Lauren Winans, chief executive officer of Next Level Benefits, a human resources consulting firm in Pittsburgh. “Perception, social responsibility, keeping pace with competitors and greater diversity at the top are all playing a role in influencing employers to respond.”

Advantage design

Most employers limit abortion travel benefits, with annual caps being the most common way. Among plans that offer or will offer travel benefits for abortion services, 43 percent have an annual limit and 22 percent expect to establish a limit in the future. Similarly, there is a lifetime limit of 28 percent and an incident limit of 20 percent. Sixty-four percent said they would limit reimbursable expenses to IRS tax-exempt amounts, the survey found.

Some employers offer travel benefits specifically for abortions, while others offer travel benefits for various medical procedures, such as organ transplants or bariatric surgery. The survey found that 86 percent of employers combine their travel benefits with benefits for other procedures for abortion.

“Some employers are expanding abortion travel benefits to include any type of medical care that is currently prohibited in the state,” said Bethany Corbin, an attorney at Nixon Guilt Law in Charlotte, N.C. “This covers and reduces abortion and gender-affirming care. The employer benefit plan’s exposure to discrimination Challenged.”

“We can expect to see more travel benefit coverage and the alignment of those individuals to a broader range of services,” predicted Courtney Stubblefield, senior director of health and benefits at WTW.

However, “I think it’s OK to have a specific policy for abortion because it’s a separate issue,” said Sharona Hoffman, a professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland. “Employers may be concerned about being accused of disability discrimination if they do not offer travel funding for all medical care. However, pregnancy is not a disability, so I would argue that they are not discriminating between disabilities.”

In general, employers should try to avoid obstacles for the individual using the benefit.

“It’s important to keep the process as smooth and private as possible,” Winans said. “The last thing employees or their dependents need is to fill out forms or fight through a complicated process. There’s no need to overcomplicate a benefit to provide relief to those in need. Keep it simple, prioritize privacy. And make sure the employee experience is at the core of benefits administration. is.”

Among employers with fully insured health plans, 93 percent expect to offer coverage for elective abortions by 2023 in states where abortion is permitted. Among employers who self-insure their health plans, 82 percent expect to cover elective abortions by 2023 in states where abortion is allowed, the WTW survey found.

Another survey by the Integrated Benefits Institute, an Oakland, Calif.-based benefits research organization, found that 62 percent of employers cover paid time off for employees who need abortion services, including travel and recovery. Forty-six percent of employers said they are considering making adjustments to their coverage for abortion.

State laws vary

The Dubs The ruling allows states to decide whether to ban or allow abortions. Shortly after that decision, US Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed that states cannot prohibit women from obtaining abortions in another state. However, the law in this area is chaotic and changing rapidly.

“Banning interstate travel would certainly be constitutionally questionable and would generate litigation,” Hoffman said. “But if a state legislature passes such a law, prosecutors will likely pursue such cases unless a court decision precludes them from doing so. Even if there is a temporary travel ban, employers should not fund travel because they are aiding individuals in committing a crime.”

“Some states make it illegal to aid and abet abortion, and in those states, it’s likely that aggressive prosecutors will pursue employers to provide travel funding,” he added.

Sensitive information may be leaked. “Anti-abortionists can report the company for offering these travel benefits in states with ‘aid and abet’ laws and also return proprietary documents and data showing which women have obtained abortions under the company’s travel benefits program,” Corbin said. said ‚ÄúThis means that employers need to carefully evaluate how to operate any abortion travel benefit program to minimize risk and protect employee privacy.

“Part of the difficulty is that the boundaries of these ‘aiding and abetting’ laws have not yet been established, so it is not clear what conduct will trigger these laws,” he added.

Remember that employees will have different health needs and face different life situations. “HR executives need to formulate thoughtful policies that are tailored to their workforce and address a variety of applicable scenarios,” Hoffman said.

For example, remote workers who live in states that ban abortion should have access to travel benefits, but those who live in states that allow abortion should not, Hoffman said.

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