Michigan’s largest health insurer will soon offer employers a reimbursement option that would cover travel costs for employees seeking an abortion if the procedure is not available in their state.
Michigan’s new Blue Cross Blue Shield benefit option follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, which now leaves it up to states to authorize, restrict or prohibit abortions. Abortion remains legal in Michigan due to a court-ordered injunction.
Michigan’s Blue Cross Blue Shield and Blue Care Network are expanding an existing travel reimbursement giving employers the ability to cover employee travel for services not available where they live, including abortions.
The Detroit Free Press learned of the extended travel benefits in a Tuesday memo that appears to have been sent by Michigan’s Blue Cross Blue Shield. Although Helen Stojic, a spokesperson for the insurer, could not confirm the existence of the memo, she said Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan had contacted customer groups about the issue. travel option.
Stojic said the insurer’s customers have long been interested in a more comprehensive travel product.
“While travel for services such as abortion may be available to clients upon request, COVID has also demonstrated the need for expanded access to services such as behavioral health or treatment for behavioral disorders. drug addiction,” she said. “This new benefit could also include nationwide travel for highly specialized services, such as bariatric surgery.”
The new travel benefit will cover services such as abortions and maternity and reproductive health services, among other services such as transgender services, including gender affirmation treatment and musculoskeletal procedures.
Stojic said there would be no immediate changes to BCBSM coverage of major reproductive health services in Michigan while the injunction is in place, which prohibits a 1931 state law banning enforcement. of most forms of abortion.
While the majority of people covered by the insurer live in Michigan, about a quarter of its customers – 1.6 million people – live in other states, where abortion may not be legal.
“As we review existing federal and state laws and monitor legal actions, our role is to comply with the laws and continue to meet the unique needs of our customers,” Stojic said.
The new travel benefit will be available within the next 30-60 days.
Jeremy Bakken, a spokesman for Priority Health, another large Michigan health insurer, said he had no information to offer at this time regarding travel coverage. In response to a question about what health insurance offers employers in terms of abortion coverage, Bakken said “anyone interested in understanding their coverage should contact their health plan directly before seeking treatment.”
Meridian of Michigan did not respond to a request for information on what its plans cover.
After:Michigan’s largest health system reverses stance on abortion
After:Michigan officials: Abortion remains legal due to injunction against 1931 law
Meanwhile, Michigan businesses are trying to figure out what the Supreme Court’s decision means for their employees. This is especially true for businesses operating in multiple states, said Randi Berris, vice president of marketing and communications for Michigan Business Leaders, the state’s Business Roundtable.
Of the eight Michigan-based companies with employees working in other states that the Detroit Free Press contacted earlier this week, General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Stellantis, Kellogg Co. and The Whirlpool Corp. responded.
Most said they were evaluating how best to meet the health care needs of their employees.
Ford spokeswoman Cathie Hargett said coverage for abortion services varies depending on the health plans employees choose. She added that employees with health savings accounts can use them to “reimburse themselves for essential transportation costs to receive care, within the limits of tax laws.”
Kellogg, which recently announced its split into three companies headquartered in Battle Creek and Chicago, has a long history of providing health care coverage that includes elective abortions, company spokesman Kris Bahner said.
“Kellogg employees and their family members enrolled in our benefits program have existing coverage for reimbursement of travel expenses for eligible medical procedures when such services are not available in their home country” , she said.
Free Press writers Jamie L. LaReau and Eric D. Lawrence contributed to this report.
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