America has more than a month Preparing for a Supreme Court trial Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health A ruling overturns constitutional right to abortion Roe v Wadebut the employer Employers still find themselves scrambling to respond when making decisions Released June 24th.
some, like Citigrouphas announced abortion travel benefits – as early as Dobbs The decision was leaked. “In response to changes in reproductive health laws in certain states in the United States, starting in 2022, we are offering travel benefits to facilitate access to adequate resources,” The company wrote In the notice of annual general meeting and proxy statement. It did not detail the policies in the report.
Many employers wait until Dobbs A decision was made to follow suit, but within a few days, A range of companies, from Dick’s Sporting Goods to disneyannounced — whether through public posts on social media or an internal memo to employees — that they would expand benefit coverage to help employees access abortion services.
But what compliance challenges does this politically charged benefit present? Can employers provide employees with this support while protecting employee privacy? To find out, HR Dive interviewed an executive at an HR technology company that helps employers create abortion travel benefits, two executives at companies that have pledged to offer such benefits, and an attorney with more than 20 years of employee benefits experience.
A new benefit is taking shape
On June 24 and the days after, human resources software company Compt was inundated with requests for help from employers and benefits brokers. “[It was] Amy Spurling, founder and CEO of Compt, told HR Dive. She said the company had “a lot of people on the team who immediately lost their insurance and couldn’t get medical care.” They need to design a legal benefit that employees can use quickly.
While many companies have now announced their explicit intention to support access to abortion care, the details are mostly vague. Travel allowances appear to be an emerging popular model, with Citigroup and Dick being early adopters of the benefit.according to reporter The New York Times, Warner Bros., Disney, Meta, Bank of America, and Intuit, among many others, have adopted this model. A common reimbursement limit appears to be $4,000, although Zillow says it will offer up to $7,500, The Times reported. Some companies are more specific about what “travel” includes than others, noting the coverage of lodging and transportation or specifying the distance required for travel (eg, in JPMorgan’s case, more than 50 miles).
A few companies have taken a tougher or more specialized stance based on the products or services they offer. Lyft and UberE.g, reaffirmed their commitment Pay the legal costs of drivers sued for transporting people to abortion clinics – a benefit both passed in September 2021, after the bill passed Texas Heartbeat Act, which allows anyone to prosecute someone who “aids or abets the perpetration or induction of an abortion.”Patagonia announced it will include bail For those who protest peacefully.
Company weighs legal liability
As businesses begin to develop insurance policies for abortion travel, there are some important compliance issues they need to keep in mind. Employers need to maintain awareness of the types of expenses that are and are not taxable — a topic that gets tricky when it comes to health care and abortion policy.
“Certain travel expenses related to medical services are considered medical expenses under the Internal Revenue Code and can be covered in a group health plan,” Kirsten Vignec, a Hill Ward Henderson shareholder who specializes in employee benefit law, told HR Dive by email . “If these permitted travel expenses are covered by the health plan, there will be no adverse tax consequences for the employee.” Vignec said that if reimbursement is provided outside the health plan, “the amount paid may be taxable to the employee.”
Regardless, even companies with fully insured health plans must comply with state insurance laws that regulate states, Vignec noted. Just as abortion laws vary from state to state, so does abortion coverage. “Some states prohibit insured plans from providing benefits for abortion procedures,” Vignac said. “On the other hand, other states require such insurance.”
To be compliant, “companies with fully insured plans may have to establish a separate self-insured plan to provide these types of travel benefits,” Vignec said, “such as health reimbursement arrangements that cover certain travel expenses for medical procedures that are not available in the state. use.
“For a variety of reasons, this type of arrangement must generally be limited to those covered by a comprehensive medical plan,” Vignec continued. “Companies with self-insured health plans are not subject to state insurance laws because they are protected by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which takes precedence over state laws regarding insurance and mandatory coverage.”
Tax issues aside, some states have enacted anti-abortion laws that could put companies that help employees secure abortions out of state in legal jeopardy. For example, Texas and Oklahoma have these “aid and abet” clauses.
Those regulations are a top priority for Spurling, who has been trying to help employers with workers in Texas develop policy. “If your employee’s cousin finds out [use of abortion benefits] And if they’re not happy with that, they can come and sue you,” she said. “Anyone can sue anyone. They don’t even have to be involved in the situation to sue them. So it’s a far-reaching law with a lot of implications. “
Privacy concerns come into focus
When it comes to establishing a benefit that can help employees access care while also protecting their privacy, Compte thinks broader would be better. It created the Out-of-State Medical Benefit — a $4,000-a-year stipend that allows all employees to access a wide range of medical services, from reproductive health care to cancer treatment to abortion care. Employees can use the stipend to pay for the procedure itself and related expenses.
“You need to provide a travel receipt…if you need childcare while you are receiving any kind of treatment, you need to submit it,” Spurling said. “These are not illegal under any law. For us, if you really want to get reimbursed for the actual treatment, we don’t need a receipt because I don’t want to know what treatment you’re getting.” She would be in violation of HIPAA and the IRS The potential for tax law noncompliance as a reason for Compt’s current benefit and desire to protect employee privacy.
“Whatever the situation [in which] You might need an abortion, you know, there are a lot of situations that might come into play … you certainly don’t want to share it with your employer in any way, form or form,” Sperling said.
Jack Altman, CEO of HR platform Lattice, share on twitter An internal message he sent to employees stated that the company intended to offer abortion benefits. Chief People Officer Cara Brennan Allamano said leadership is currently working on the company’s policy on abortion travel benefits and exploring how to manage it”in a way that protects our employees and the company. ”
The San Francisco-based company has more than 700 employees, 10 percent of whom are based in states with enacted or pending restrictive abortion laws, Alamano said. “But as a fast-growing company, we know this number is likely to increase over time,” she told HR Dive in an email.
Pam Goodwin, vice president of marketing for developmental coaching company AceUp, said the organization is still working to develop abortion benefits, but that “privacy and the well-being, comfort and psychological safety of everyone at AceUp are any policy we have in place.”
Employees respond positively
While company leaders who have rolled out or announced abortion benefits have expected some resistance or negative response from employees given the nature of the issue, all leaders who spoke with HR Dive said the internal response has been overwhelming so far. Positive so far.
“There was no negative reaction at all,” Goodwin told HR Dive. “Even before the announcement…there was instant chatter [on Slack] about previous decisions [CEO] Will Foussier even came out and said any decision about benefits or anything, just to discuss it as news. When Foussier announced internally that the company would provide support, “the staff were immediately very grateful and supportive,” she said.
Lattice responded similarly. “I believe our employees see this as an extension of our commitment to investing in their well-being and growth, both within and outside of Lattice,” Alamano said.
Clouds gather on the horizon
Their positions are likely to continue to change as organizations work to enact abortion benefits. In early May, Texas Rep. Briscoe Caine and 13 other state representatives sent an open letter To Lyft’s CEO, which lays out a slew of steps lawmakers will take to try to reduce the availability of abortion travel benefits.
“We will introduce legislation in the next session that would prohibit companies from doing business in Texas if they pay for elective abortions or reimburse them for abortion-related expenses – no matter where the abortion occurs and regardless of the laws of the jurisdiction where the abortion occurs ,” the lawmakers wrote in the opening ceremony.
Vignec agreed that lawmakers in restrictive states will likely continue to seek “additional legislation and subsequent litigation as states test their powers to address abortion restrictions and responses to those restrictions.”
Still, employers seem to be aware of these risks. “We knew it was going to be a moving target,” Alamano said.