Disney says it will cover employee travel costs for abortions

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The Walt Disney Co. said Friday it will cover employee travel expenses for abortions in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the latest corporate giant to make the move as companies scramble to adapt to the new reality.

The benefit covers the cost of “family planning” travel for any worker who cannot access care where they live, Disney said, including “pregnancy-related decisions.” The company employs 195,000 people worldwide, including approximately 80,000 in Florida.

“We recognize the impact of the decision and that we remain committed to providing full access to quality and affordable care for all of our employees, cast members and their families, including family planning and reproductive care, where they live,” Disney said. in a statement to the Post.

A torrent of similar announcements was announced on Friday by companies including Netflix, Paramount, Sony and Comcast, highlighting the unusual role of US companies in protecting reproductive rights following the High Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. But these measures could also expose companies to public backlash and legal liability as they navigate the rapidly changing landscape of reproductive rights in the United States.

Dick’s Sporting Goods will reimburse up to $4,000 in abortion travel costs “to the nearest place where such care is legally available” for employees, their spouses and dependents in states where the access is restricted, chief executive Lauren Hobart announced on LinkedIn on Friday.

“We recognize that people are passionate about this topic – and that there are teammates and athletes who will disagree with this decision,” Hobart said. “However, we also recognize that decisions about health and families are deeply personal and made with careful thought. We’re making this decision so our teammates can access the same healthcare options no matter where they live and choose what’s best for them.

Ride-sharing service Lyft said on Friday its US medical benefits plan includes coverage for “elective abortion and reimbursement of travel expenses” if an employee must travel more than 100 miles for a network provider.

“Transportation should never be a barrier to access, and we will continue to uphold the privacy and choice of our drivers, passengers, and crew members across the country,” said Kristin Sverchek, president of business affairs, Lyft. , in a blog post.

Starting in July, JPMorgan Chase is extending travel benefits for any covered service that can only be obtained more than 50 miles from an employee’s home, the company told The Post. The policy will apply to US employees enrolled in its medical plan, as well as covered partners and dependents.

“As always, we are focused on the health and well-being of our employees and want to ensure equitable access to all benefits,” said Patricia Wexler, head of corporate communications at the investment bank.

The companies have been planning Roe’s reversal for weeks — ever since the court’s draft opinion was leaked in early May and Texas passed its own restrictive abortion law earlier this year.

Companies like Apple have said they will cover the medical costs of Texas workers who may have to travel out of state to get abortions. Salesforce offered to relocate the workers.

Amazon said in May it would cover $4,000 in travel costs for American workers seeking medical care, including abortion and transgender surgery. But the policy only applies to employees enrolled in the company’s health care plan, excluding construction workers, warehouse workers and delivery drivers who make the e-commerce giant hum .

The chorus of corporate dissent against the decision was concentrated among media and tech companies. But with the exception of Dick’s Sporting Goods, retailers — which are one of the nation’s largest work forces, employing nearly 18 million Americans, according to IbisWorld — were largely silent.

Walmart, Target and Kroger did not respond to inquiries from The Post about any changes to employee health plans as a result of the ruling.

United for Respect, a nonprofit worker advocacy organization, called on Walmart to intervene to protect its 1.6 million U.S. employees. The group pointed out that Walmart’s presence in the South, where several states have abortion-inducing laws in place, gives the company “an opportunity and a duty to step in and ensure that its associates are supported”.

“As the largest private employer in the nation, Walmart leaders can set the standard for other companies by supporting associates and providing adequate maternity leave, paid sick leave and covering the cost of associate expenses. who must cross state lines to gain access. abortion services,” United for Respect said in a statement Friday.

Many other human resources and business leaders have also been busy planning what action to take, said Jen Stark, director of management consultancy BSR.

Some companies have already made internal announcements about expanding existing health benefits to include travel or access to abortion services, she said.

“I would expect to see in the next 24 to 48 hours more statements and more internal policy announcements going public,” Stark said.

For these companies, abortion is treated like an organ transplant. This is specialized medical care that may not be available nearby or in one state, and so the insurance will help cover travel expenses and paid sick leave.

“It’s the integration of that kind of care,” Stark said.

Emily Dickens, government affairs manager at the Society for Human Resource Management, said employers will need to continue to follow local, state and federal laws and regulations regarding abortion.

“New research from SHRM shows nearly a quarter of organizations agree that offering a health savings account to cover travel for reproductive care in another state will improve their ability to compete for talent. “Dickens said. “But how these policies interact with state laws is unclear, and employers should be aware of the legal risks involved.”

A key question in liability is whether employers will be in legal jeopardy if they cover employee travel costs in states where abortion is prohibited. In May, national law firm Morgan Lewis issued an alert on considerations for employers if Roe v. Wade was dismantled. There is a particular risk in states such as Oklahoma and Texas, where legislation allows individuals to bring civil actions against abortion providers and people who “knowingly aid or abet the practice or incitement to an abortion, including payment or reimbursement of the costs of an abortion through insurance. or otherwise.”

“For example, it can be argued that a company or benefits plan violates Texas law if it reimburses a Texas-based employee for an abortion performed in a state that allows abortion, or for related travel,” said Morgan Lewis. “The text of the Texas and Oklahoma statutes does not provide a clear answer to this question, nor is it clear whether such a provision would stand.”

Employers who reimburse medical, surgical and travel expenses associated with a legal abortion for an employee through the employer’s health plan or other health reimbursement arrangements enjoy some protection under the Employees Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

But according to Kathryn Bakich, head of health compliance practices at the Segal Group, ERISA’s preemptive principles “are likely to be thrown to the wolves as the courts try to unravel the traps that the Supreme Court strained employers in quashing Roe v. Wade”.

“Benefits from abortion services to obstetric care to fertility treatment will likely be impacted by the new ruling,” Bakich said. “Employers might have employees in states that recognize the right to abortion, prohibit abortion, or even criminalize assisted abortion. A critical question to ask is, “How do employers ensure consistency of benefits for employees in states with such diverse medical care laws?”

In remarks Friday on the decision, President Biden said his administration would protect the right to travel for a legal abortion.

“If any state or local official, high or low, tries to interfere with a woman exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight this deeply un-American attack,” Biden said. .

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