Large employers struggle with the issue of abortion benefits

Kim Nguyen felt a sense of pride last fall when her Alloy bosses pledged to pay travel expenses for workers in Texas if they needed access to abortion services after the state passed new restrictions.

“This kind of thing, particularly with regards to equity, diversity, inclusion, access to reproductive rights, [are] front and center for me personally. And it’s so amazing that the company sees it too, ”said Nguyen, Alloy’s vice president of personnel.

The founders of the New York-based fintech start-up have pledged to expand the travel advantage should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Veal.

“Our position is always to think about how we can take care of the people who work at Alloy, if some other institution isn’t,” said Tommy Nicholas, CEO of Alloy.

Since the escape of a Supreme Court ruling draft on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – the case that would exclude Roe v. Wade – a growing list of large employers has pledged to maintain access to abortion for workers and family members. Including companies Citigroup, sales force, StarbucksAnd Amazon they said they will provide travel benefits to those who need to travel outside states where access is restricted or prohibited.

Starbucks to cover employee travel expenses for abortions, such claim surgeries

Employers observe the abortion ruling

Less than 10% of S&P 500 companies publicly disclose whether they cover abortion services as part of their health plans, according to a Equileap 2020 Benefits Analysis, a data company dedicated to promoting gender equality. About half of these companies cover elective termination of pregnancy, while a quarter specify that they would cover the procedure if the mother’s health is at risk, or in the event of rape or incest. Now, however, many companies may be reviewing their policies.

“Most – not all – but most employers they recruit nationwide are trying to find ways to have medical service continuation,” said Owen Tripp, CEO of Included Health, formerly known as Grand Rounds and Doctor on Demand. “The challenge is that they have to put in place a process where an employee can raise their hand and say that this is something I would like to take advantage of.”

At Alloy, the company’s healthcare provider was not prepared to administer the travel program. Therefore, employees will need to work directly with the company’s human resources team, who have designed a process with the finance department that will protect the worker’s privacy in the same way they would for any other medical issue.

Tripp of Included Health says the large employers her company works with have leveraged the company’s navigation service to help manage the benefits of abortive travel. But in some cases that’s all they’re doing.

“There are a couple of large employers we work with who really just want to cover the travel portion, but they won’t cover the medical benefits,” Tripp said. “I think you will see some nuances in how employers approach this problem.”

State bans

Analysts say maintaining abortion benefits for employees in states that restrict or prohibit abortion could become more legally complicated for domestic employers if the High Court overturns Roe v. Veal. Such a decision could trigger abortion bans in more than a dozen states and possibly lead to half of the United States banning or severely restricting access to abortion services.

Although the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known as ERISA, gives national employers the option to avoid certain state health insurance regulations, prohibiting a medical procedure does not allow for similar alternative solutions.

“The heart of ERISA does not guarantee an employer the ability to do something that would otherwise be illegal. So, if it is illegal in the state to pursue or receive an abortion in that state … an employer’s benefits program does not would be able to reimburse or pay for it, ”explained Garrett Hohimer, director of policy and defense at Business Group on Health, which represents large employers.

Beyond access restrictions, Oklahoma’s new abortion ban legislation will give citizens the right to enforce abortion laws; it is now the third state to allow the practice, joining Idaho and Texas. Others might follow.

Such citizen protection clauses allow individuals to sue anyone who facilitates an abortion, which could potentially include insurers and employers covering the costs of the procedures.

“Anyone who has invested in health insurance will have to go back to the drawing board and review their position. Because not only coverage and rejection policy become the focus, but litigation too – litigation against the plan for its determination of what. it’s appropriate and what’s not, ”said health care consultant Paul Keckley, former executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

Potential backlash

While a growing list of major employers has emerged in support of maintaining access, most are waiting until the high court ruling to announce how they will manage the benefits of abortion. But that wait-and-see approach also sends a message to some.

“I see it, and I think a lot of other people see it, as a decision in and of itself,” Nicholas said of Alloy.

ace Disney executives discovered after Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Businesses now face refoulement from all sides, regardless of whether or not they take a stand when it comes to burning social issues like sexual orientation and abortion.

“As a corporate citizen in America right now, you need to be able to define for yourself, your character in this country and how you will be perceived,” said Hohimer. “I don’t know that every employer will be treated fairly or revered for any aspect of this.”

The Supreme Court should issue a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June.

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