Companies face big questions about benefits amid the uncertainty faced by Ru

Corporate America faces a host of questions about how it offers health benefits in the wake of a leaked US Supreme Court draft that suggested the federal right to abortion could be repealed.

why does it matter: Companies hoping to use reproductive health benefits as part of efforts to hire and retain employees should be careful not to break laws if states are allowed to ban abortions.

  • Experts warn that the balancing act over the next several months could become chaotic.

what are they saying: “It’s a serious issue for employers,” said Candice Sherman, CEO of Northeast Business Group on Health. The group represents nearly 80 large companies such as American Express, Colgate, Moderna and Pfizer.

  • Sherman said restrictions on abortion coverage have the potential to affect the physical and mental health of the workforce and could come as many employers address equality and inclusion for women, people of color and LGBTQ employees.
  • This is often communicated by companies through design benefits.

playing condition: Some big companies like Amazon, Apple, and Lyft have already announced plans to provide alternative solutions in those states with abortion restrictions.

  • But many others remain on the sidelines because they underestimate staff priorities on abortion-related benefits, as well as potential costs and legal risks.
  • Eleven states restrict abortion insurance coverage to all private insurance plans written in the state, including those offered through the Affordable Care Act markets, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Six other states require abortion coverage in private health insurance plans.

Zoom: One of the most pressing questions is what kind of employer-sponsored abortion coverage—plus enhanced benefits such as travel stipends—might create legal obligations for companies in countries that ban abortion.

  • “There is a question as to whether the provision of transfer benefits, or at least allegations by states in enforcement, can be interpreted as aiding and abetting,” said Garrett Hohemer, director of policy and advocacy at the Health Business Group. This group includes companies such as The Walt Disney Company, Walmart and General Motors among its members.
  • Companies such as Citigroup that pay for out-of-state abortions have already been threatened with business loss.

Yes, but: In the event of a challenge, companies will have a strong case that federal protections for providing abortion care benefits preempt state laws, Emily Dickens, president of government affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management, told Axios.

  • Dickens specifically referred to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which specifically states that an employer is allowed to provide health insurance coverage for abortion, as well as protections under ERISA.

But but but: It’s not a sure thing. for example: “Iressa is not a free prison release card,” Hohmer cautioned, noting that there are some questions about how to interpret the law.

  • Sherman said that while experts largely believe the Affordable Care Act will provide protection for birth control coverage, it’s unclear how fertility benefits such as egg freezing, surrogacy or in vitro fertilization may be affected.

what do you want to watch: Many large companies already offer health benefits that allow workers to travel to centers of excellence for procedures such as joint replacement or cancer care.

  • Hoehmer said these types of benefits will likely gain more attention due to the interest surrounding reproductive health.
  • This may also raise questions about whether there is flexibility in the tax code to extend flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts to cover travel for any health care issues, Sherman said.

Bottom line: “Assuming this discussion comes out the way we think it might be, organizations are going to have to work hard,” Sherman said.

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