Concerns loom as companies offer benefits for out-of-state abortion care

Clinics are starting to turn away women who are seeking an abortion. Now, some employers are saying they're stepping up financially to cover out-of-state costs.
Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 3:48 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - In reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision overturning Roe vs. Wade, some employers are vowing to pay for travel expenses if employees seeking an abortion must leave their own state for care. “This is quite possibly going to be a very complicated situation for employees and employers,” said Josh Black, a Phoenix-based employment attorney.

Company policies vary. For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods said it will provide up to $4,000 in travel expense reimbursement to “any teammate, spouse or dependent enrolled in our medical plan, along with one support person.” Starbucks also announced a medical travel reimbursement benefit. “No matter where you live, or what you believe, we will always ensure you have access to quality healthcare,” the company wrote in an open letter to employees.

“Most of the companies that are doing these policies are what we call self-insured plans, which means they pay for all their employees healthcare, so there’s actually a lot of precedent here,” said Caitlin Donovan, a spokesperson for the National Patient Advocate Foundation. “As I was reviewing all of these statements and their benefit designs, a lot of them seem like they’re folding this as part of their reproductive health and maternity coverage, where you have this option under the plan design. Of course, the same privacy concerns still exist if you have a self-insured plan. There’s always that chance and that ability for your employer to know a little bit more about your healthcare and your personal life that may be comfortable for you, but since this is all so new, we’re still watching it to see how it develops.”

“I think it would likely be handled the same way as accommodations in the workplace for other health conditions,” Black said. “If you need to leave and go out for surgery, there are certain people at work you talk with about that. It’s usually HR. Your direct management doesn’t necessarily need to know typically what it is you’re missing work for. They just need to know that it’s a covered health reason, so I would say as long as companies continue and follow that type of a policy, then there should be less concerns.”

Black noted there are concerns beyond potential privacy issues. “I think there are going to be some concerns of is this fair, does this violate policies or laws in our state? Is it our company espousing a political view? All of those things, I think, are potential landmines for companies to watch out for,” he said.