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Big Employers to Cover Abortion Travel After Roe Decision (1)

June 25, 2022, 3:02 AM

Some of the most recognized companies in the US indicated that they would extend coverage of out-of-state medical care, decisions that will cover more than a million employees after the Supreme Court overturned a half-century-old ruling that protected abortion rights.

Bellwether corporations from the worlds of finance, media, technology and health care said they would bankroll travel for workers who need access to safe, legal abortions and other procedures. The court’s decision overturned a decades-old precedent that backers say reshaped the modern economy by increasing opportunities for women.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest bank in the US, will pay for its employees to travel to another state if needed to obtain a legal abortion, according to information that was sent to all US employees this month. The benefit will go into effect July 1.

Meta Platforms Inc., the owner of Facebook and Instagram, will reimburse travel expenses, “to the extent permitted by law, for employees who will need them to access out-of-state health care and reproductive services,” according to a spokesperson. The social-networking giant said it’s assessing how to do that, “given the legal complexities involved.”

Read more: A full list of US employers instituting travel benefits for abortion access

Walt Disney Co., which has been mired in disputes with conservative leaders over its support for LGBTQ people, said it will cover the cost of travel for employees who can’t access the care they need in their state. Health-care companies CVS Health Corp. and Biogen Inc. also said that they are making out-of-state medical care including abortion accessible for their employees. CVS had its plans in place prior to Friday’s decision, a spokesman said.

Read more: Abortion travel emerges as a job benefit as states cut access

Those big employers joined peers including Microsoft Corp., which reiterated similar plans after the court’s ruling Friday, that have said in recent weeks they would grant such coverage to workers.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that enshrined the choice to terminate a pregnancy as a constitutional right, is expected to lead to abortion curbs in more than half of US states, with several already having passed restrictive new laws that would be triggered by the reversal of Roe.

In much the same manner that the decision will create disparities in access to abortion, it isn’t clear that all employers will follow in the footsteps of the larger companies pledging expanded benefits on Friday.

When asked by the consultancy Gartner in late May what new policies they might adopt if Roe was overturned, 60% of human-resources executives said they wouldn’t add anything. Fewer than 10% said they’d pay for some or all of employees’ travel costs to get to a reproductive-care facility, or provide paid time off for procedures.

Fraught Calculus

Offering to pay for care received far from home lets companies show support for abortion rights without taking more extreme steps like relocating workers and offices or altering political donations. However, the calculus is fraught: While likely to comfort some workers, the approach could open businesses to criticism or retribution from abortion opponents in states that adopt restrictions.

“This is the hottest of hot potatoes,” said Davia Temin, founder of New York crisis consultancy Temin and Co. “Because companies are commenting on social issues more than ever before, the need to do the same around abortion is swirling through corporate America.”

Some high-profile companies had already agreed to cover travel costs and give other support to employees who need to go to a different state for an abortion because of restrictions where they are based. The initiative, spearheaded in March by Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jane Fraser, includes companies such as Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Match Group Inc., Tesla Inc. and Yelp Inc.

Support for employee abortion travel has prompted threats from conservative states against some of the companies, particularly Citigroup, one of the largest US banks.

A Texas lawmaker said the bank could face criminal charges under that state’s abortion law, and Republican members of Congress called for the cancellation of US government contracts with Citigroup, which provides the credit cards that members of the US House of Representatives use to pay for flights, supplies and other goods.

Read more: Kavanaugh says states may not bar travel to obtain an abortion

Still, the list of companies offering expanded benefits has been growing.

Cigna Corp. will reimburse employees who need to travel for abortion care, a company spokesperson said in an email. The Bloomfield, Connecticut-based health conglomerate has employees in every state and already covers travel for some medical needs.

Cigna said it is expanding that benefit to cover abortion, gender-affirming care and behavioral health care in states that limit access. The company also said it will continue to offer “meaningful options” for health coverage to clients, including travel benefits.

Elsewhere, mobile carrier T-Mobile US Inc. expanded its health coverage for those needing to travel for health care in May, after a draft of the court’s majority opinion was leaked to the press. And Airbnb Inc. on Friday pointed to commitments it made last year “to ensure that our employees have the resources they need to make choices about their reproductive care.”

In addition to paying for their employees’ out-of-state travel expenses, outdoor apparel company Patagonia Inc. and concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment Inc. said they would provide bail for employees who are arrested while protesting the abortion ruling.

Quiet Adaptation

While many companies went public with changes on Friday, the odds remain that many others will quietly adapt their health-care policies to accommodate abortion changes, but remain mostly silent on the political questions raised by the court’s decision, according to Temin, the independent consultant.

Additionally, while many corporate leaders are largely avoiding making statements on the issue so far, most employees expect them to say or do something, according to Brian Kropp, head of human resources research at Gartner.

Rather than speak out and risk a backlash, companies might let their in-house health-care policies and perks do the talking.

“That has a bigger impact for employees, because it’s a real resource allocation decision you’re making,” Kropp said. “You’re not saying you disagree with the ruling, but you want to support your employees with the health-care needs that they have.”

(Updates with details on Patagonia and Live Nation)

--With assistance from Elizabeth Moore, Hannah Levitt, Kelly Gilblom, Robert Langreth, Fiona Rutherford, Dina Bass, Scott Moritz, Michael Tobin, John Tozzi, Norah Mulinda and Amina Niasse.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Jeff Green in Southfield, Michigan at jgreen16@bloomberg.net;
Matthew Boyle in New York at mboyle20@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Crayton Harrison at tharrison5@bloomberg.net

Timothy Annett, Richard Clough

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.