Companies struggle to make policies related to employee abortions

There is no clear blueprint for corporate commitment on abortion. After numerous companies announced they would cover their employees’ travel expenses for abortions, executives had to move quickly to figure out the mechanics of those policies and explain them to a workforce concerned about confidentiality and security.

Few companies have commented directly on the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights. Many more have responded by expanding their health care policies to cover travel and other expenses for employees who can’t get abortions close to home, now that the procedure is banned in at least eight states and other bans are set to take effect soon. About half the country gets its health care coverage from employers, and the wave of new employer commitments has raised some workers’ concerns about privacy.

“It’s a doomsday scenario if people have to take their health care options to their employers,” said Dina Fierro, global vice president of cosmetics company Nars, echoing a concern many workers have expressed on social media in recent years. last days.

Employers are scrambling to prepare for potential legal challenges to their health care policies, as well as responding to scrutiny of their past political donations to politicians who supported abortion bans. Match Group, for example, whose former CEO Shar Dubey announced a fund in September to support abortion access in partnership with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, donated more than $100,000 to the Association of Republican Attorneys General last year, as reported in Popular. Information. Match Group declined to comment.

Among the companies that said they would help employees who have to travel for abortions are Disney, Macy’s, H&M, Nordstrom, Nike, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Snap, joining a larger group that includes to Starbucks and Yelp who previously agreed to do so. Salesforce and Google said they would relocate employees who wanted to leave states where abortion is banned.

These employers cover health care for only a fraction of the millions of people who live in states where abortion is banned or soon will be. And other major employers have not made public statements about employee assistance. The nation’s largest private employer, Walmart, declined to comment on the Supreme Court ruling. Other large employers including Target, Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines did not respond to requests for comment.

Some marketing experts point out that companies that step in will likely face backlash. “Consumers and employees don’t want companies to ‘take a stand,’ unless companies take their position and cause,” Kimberly Whitler, who teaches marketing at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, said in an email.

In an attempt to ease fears about potential confidentiality issues, many employers implementing new abortion-related benefits aim to allow workers and others on their health care plans to get travel reimbursement without disclosing anything to their managers. . In some cases, that means people submit claims to their insurance companies as they would for other medical procedures. Yelp, for example, explained to his employees in April that his travel benefit is administered through his insurance provider.

“No one at Yelp will receive information about who incurred a claim or received a refund,” a Yelp spokeswoman said.

Aetna, one of the largest insurance companies, said it would “ensure that our data practices comply with all applicable laws that protect our members’ privacy.” UnitedHealth declined to comment specifically on privacy issues. Anthem, Cigna and Humana did not respond to requests for comment.

Expedia said travel costs would be reimbursed through medical plan providers and employees could use their time off without giving a reason. BuzzFeed said that instead of reimbursements for abortion-related expenses, it would offer stipends that would be approved by the head of its human resources department, someone, the company said, who was trained to handle sensitive matters.

PayPal said it had an employee advocacy team that provided confidential information to employees about sensitive topics, including the use of their health care benefits. Starbucks workers have third-party contact persons, called advocates, whom employees can approach anonymously with questions about health care benefits, ensuring they don’t have to reveal details about their medical needs to managers.

“That can be anything from ‘I have knee surgery planned and I want to make the right decision about a plan,’ to advice on what to do if you intend to use the fertility benefit and everything in between,” Reggie said. Borges, company spokesman.

Some employers have laid out the details of their new health care policies in memos to staff. Impossible Foods, for example, said that in addition to abortion trips, it would also cover lodging, meals and childcare. Wells Fargo said that starting July 1, its health care plans would include travel and lodging reimbursement for “legal abortion-related services.” (Patagonia said it would also cover bail for employees who are arrested while peacefully protesting the Supreme Court decision.)

Many other companies were still polishing their plans. Culture Amp, for example, an employee survey firm, said in announcing up to $2,000 in reimbursement for abortion-related travel that it was figuring out how to “minimize information disclosure in the reimbursement process.”

The company said Monday that it was still receiving final confirmation that flight or gas expenses could be sent for approval to the human resources team rather than through managers.

“You shouldn’t have to tell your manager you’re going to have an abortion,” said Aubrey Blanche, the company’s senior director.

Currently, no states with bans attempt to prosecute women who travel out of state for abortions, but some legal experts believe such laws could be possible in the future, as are attempts to use existing laws to prosecute abortion travel. . Republican lawmakers in Texas have already said they plan to introduce legislation that penalizes companies that pay for out-of-state abortion trips.

“We are going to see creative attempts by people who are deeply committed to stopping abortion to use existing laws and pass new laws to stop as many abortions as possible, including those financed by companies,” said David Cohen, a constitutional law professor at the Drexel University. “Companies are preparing for a fight.”

And some executives seemed prepared for it. On Friday, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, wrote in a cheep:: “I believe that CEOs have a responsibility to take care of their employees, no matter what happens.”

Lora Kelley contributed report.

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