Trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan have unanimously approved a reimbursement benefit to cover travel and lodging expenses related to abortion care for participants who live or work in states that prohibit abortions. “In taking this decisive action,” the trustees said in a press release Friday, “SAG-AFTRA and management Plan trustees are seeking to ensure participants will continue to have access to safe abortion services regardless of where they live or work.”
The new benefit, which comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, is similar to ones being provided by the WGA and DGA health plans. It will reimburse reasonable travel expenses for participants, covered dependent spouses, and covered dependent children who are unable to obtain abortion services without traveling because they reside in a state or temporarily work in covered employment in a state where abortion is illegal.
Travel expenses must be primarily for, and essential to, obtaining abortion services covered by the plan that are performed by a licensed medical provider acting within the scope of their license.
Covered transportation includes:
- Bus, taxi, train, or plane fares (only coach/economy fare is a Covered Expense)
- Transportation expenses for one caregiver or travel companion
- For those who travel in their own cars, mileage is reimbursable at the business mileage rate set by the IRS (currently $0.62 per mile). Parking fees and tolls are also Covered Expenses, but gas is not. Mileage rates for medical travel are currently lower than the business mileage rate that the Plan will use to reimburse travel expenses. As a result of these IRS rules, you will be taxed on the reimbursed difference between the two mileage rates in effect at the time of your trip.
- For those who use a rental car, reasonable rental car expenses are reimbursable up to $65 per day. In this case, gas, parking fees, and tolls are also Covered Expenses, but mileage is not.
Covered lodging expenses include:
- Lodging for you and your travel companion for the night prior and the night of the abortion is covered, as well as a subsequent night(s) if medically necessary. The lodging expense amount must be reasonable as determined by the Plan, but in no event greater than $300 per night (in total, not per person).
- Under IRS rules if your lodging is more than $50 per person per night, you will be taxed on the amount in excess of the IRS limit.
- Lodging will not be reimbursed if you travel home to receive abortion services.
SAG-AFTRA, which is a separate entity from its Health Plan, said in a statement that “as both a union and an employer is committed to the principle that all our members, all our employees, and indeed all Americans should have equal access to critical, necessary and often life-saving reproductive health care, wherever they live or work.”