Disney, Netflix, Comcast say they will cover employee travel for abortions

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Walt Disney Co. said Friday that it would cover employees’ travel expenses for abortions in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to crack down on Roe v. Wade, the latest corporate giant to take the plunge as companies strive to adapt to the new reality.

The benefit covers the travel costs of “family planning” for all workers who do not have access to care where they live, Disney said, including “pregnancy-related decisions.” The company employs 195,000 worldwide, including about 80,000 in Florida.

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

A stream of similar announcements rolled in Friday from companies such as Netflix, Paramount, Sony and Comcast, underlining the corporate America’s unusual role in safeguarding reproductive rights following the Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. But the moves could also open 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 as much as $ 4,000 in expenses for abortion trips “to the nearest place where care is legally available” for employees, their spouses and relatives in states where access is restricted, CEO Lauren Hobart announced on LinkedIn on Friday.

“We recognize that people are passionate about this subject – and that it is teammates and athletes who will not agree with this decision,” Hobart said. “But we also recognize that decisions involving health and families are deeply personal and thoughtful. We make this decision so that our teammates can access the same health services, regardless of where they live, and choose what is best for them. them.”

Ride-hailing service Lyft said Friday that the U.S. medical benefit plan includes coverage for “elective abortion and reimbursement for travel expenses” if an employee has to travel more than 100 miles for a provider on the network.

“Transport should never be an obstacle to access, and we will continue to stand up for the privacy and choice of our drivers, riders and team members across the country,” Kristin Sverchek, Lyft’s president of business affairs, said in a blog post.

With effect from July, JPMorgan Chase is expanding the travel benefits for all covered services that can only be obtained more than 50 miles from an employee’s home, the company told The Post. The guidelines will apply to U.S. employees who are registered in its medical plan, as well as covered partners and relatives.

“As always, we are focused on the health and well-being of our employees, and want to ensure fair access to all benefits,” said Patricia Wexler, Head of Corporate Communications at the Investment Bank.

Companies have been planning for the Roe reversal for several weeks – ever since the court’s draft statement was leaked in early May and Texas passed its own restrictive abortion law earlier this year.

Companies like Apple have said they will cover medical expenses for workers in Texas who may have to leave the state to seek an abortion. Salesforce offered to relocate workers.

Amazon said in May that it would cover $ 4,000 in travel expenses for U.S. workers seeking medical treatment, including abortion and transgender people. But the guidelines only apply to employees who are registered in the company’s health plan, except for concert workers, warehouse employees and delivery drivers who make the e-commerce giant hum.

The chorus of the company’s dissent against the decision was concentrated among media and technology companies. But with the exception of Dick’s Sporting Goods, retailers – who make up some of the country’s largest workforce, which employs nearly 18 million Americans, according to IbisWorld – were largely silent.

Walmart, Target and Kroger did not respond to requests from The Post regarding changes to employees’ health plans following the decision.

United for Respect, a non-profit organization for workers, urged Walmart to step up to protect its 1.6 million American employees. The group stressed that Walmart’s presence in the South, where several states have abortion laws in place, gives the company “an opportunity and a duty to step up and ensure that its employees are supported.”

“As the largest private employer in the nation, Walmart executives can set the standard for other companies by supporting their partners and providing adequate maternity leave, paid sick leave and covering the costs of employees who need to travel across state borders to access abortion services. said United for Respect on Friday in a statement.

Many other human resource managers and business leaders have also been busy planning what actions to take, said Jen Stark, director of the management consulting firm BSR.

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

“I expect to see more statements and more internal political announcements over the next 24 to 48 hours,” Stark said.

For these companies, abortion is treated as an organ transplant. There are specialized medical treatments that may not be available near or within a state, and therefore insurance will help you cover travel expenses and paid sick leave.

“This is the mainstreaming of this type of care,” Stark said.

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

“New SHRM research shows that 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 guidelines interact with state laws is unclear, and employers should be aware of the legal risks involved.”

A key responsibility issue is whether employers will be in legal danger if they cover travel expenses for employees in states where abortion is prohibited. Back in May, the national law firm Morgan Lewis issued a notice of consideration for employers if Roe v. Wade was dismantled. There are particular risks in states such as Oklahoma and Texas, where legislation allows individuals to sue abortion providers and individuals who knowingly ÔÇťassist or promote the performance or induction of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the cost of an abortion through insurance if not. . “

“For example, it could be argued that a company or corporate benefit plan violates Texas law if it reimburses a Texas-based employee for an abortion received in a state that allows abortion, or for related travel expenses,” Morgan Lewis said. “The text of the Texas and Oklahoma Statutes does not provide a clear answer to that question, nor is it clear whether such a provision will be upheld.”

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 schemes have some protection under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

But according to Kathryn Bakich, Segal Group’s practice adherent to health compliance, ERISA’s precautionary principles “are likely to be thrown to the wolves when the courts try to loosen the pitfalls the Supreme Court set for employers by overthrowing Roe v. Wade.”

“Benefits from abortion services to obstetrics to fertility treatment are likely to be affected by the new decision,” Bakich said. “Employers may have employees in states that recognize abortion rights, prohibit abortion, or even criminalize assisting with abortion. A crucial question to ask is ‘How do employers keep benefits consistent for employees in states with such diverse medical laws?'”

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

“If a government official or local official, high or low, tries to disrupt a woman exercising her fundamental right to travel, I will do everything in my power to combat the profoundly un-American attack,” Biden said.

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