How one company decided to support reproductive rights despite looming regulatory uncertainty

Even before the June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, benefits company Forma already offered various health plans that ensure abortion is a covered procedure with a flexible leave policy, CEO Jason Fan said.

But the annulment of Roe v. Wade, who gave women the constitutional right to abortion, led Forma to make a series of changes in addition to the initial benefits – both for its internal employees and its customers, which include big companies Zoom and Lululemon.

Forma now offers its employees a Specialty Healthcare Reimbursement Agreement, which provides $5,000 per calendar year for expenses related to out-of-state abortion services. This includes travel expenses, child care expenses, reimbursable medical expenses and legal fees. The company also offers a flexible PTO policy for those seeking abortion services. For clients who want to offer something similar to their employees, Forma helps them do just that.

By choosing to reimburse up to $5,000, Forma offers a benefit more generous than even Amazon, which would cover expenses up to $4,000.

Forma is incorporated in Fremont, California and was formerly called Twic. It is a benefits platform that helps companies create customizable benefits for their employees and charges software license fees. Another company that works similarly is HealthEquity, according to Fan.

Forma isn’t the only company making changes in reproductive rights, according to Michelle Long, senior policy analyst for the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Women’s Health Policy program. Many large companies find ways to administer these benefits through their health insurance plan or contract them with another outside company.

Still, there are many unknowns when it comes to abortion rights and the potential risks for companies seeking to provide coverage for their employees, she added. Since July 8, abortion has been banned in 8 states, according to KFF.

“At this point, there are more questions than answers,” Long said.

Employee support

Once the draft opinion on Roe v. Wade was disclosed in May, Forma began to prepare for the official decision. The company confirmed that 29% of its employees live in states where abortion is or is likely to be banned, Fan said. Another 12% live in undecided states.

“We operate in the benefits business, so we need to take a more proactive approach on this topic, which we have done,” Fan said. “Then we started looking at the second layer, which is ‘What are some of the actions we can take to use our product and operate to do good? “”

In addition to providing support to its employees, Forma helps its customers put together a package similar to its own plan that suits their organization. The company provides its customers with a collection of resources, in the form of links, articles, and information about support groups offered by state and local governments and nonprofit organizations. Forma can also help them set up a healthcare reimbursement agreement – ​​which covers abortion and abortion-related travel costs not adequately covered by medical plans – and stay compliant with regulations. state governments.

“Overall, we are seeing very high engagement among our customer base looking to replicate much the same type of support [as our own plan]“, said Fan.”[There are] different flavors and tastes, but really it’s just about providing support to employees when needed. »

Although Forma anticipates additional changes to national regulations in the future, the company still wanted to move quickly to show support for its employees and customers, Fan said.

“As long as we have the right principles, the right mindset, we know we can get through [these changes]“, said Fan.

“Untested Waters”

While some employers are taking steps to help their employees access abortion, there are gray areas, according to KFF’s Michelle Long. For example, some states have a prohibition that applies to aiding and abetting an abortion.

“What does this mean for employers?” Long said. “This has not been tested so far but I expect we will see litigation arise in the future, does aid and encouragement apply to an employer who covers abortion? Does this apply to an employer who offers to pay the travel expenses of his employees?”

There are also security issues, Long said. Even with the HIPAA privacy law, law enforcement could receive a court order or subpoena to access a person’s abortion information. But it would take a highly motivated law enforcement agency to do so, Long added.

“With so much unknown, it’s difficult for companies to prepare,” Long said. “To a certain extent, it’s kind of untested water… I think a lot of things learn as you go because there are so many questions and things that are vague in these places.”

Employees also have their own concerns. A the concern is the cost of receiving care, even if it is covered by an insurance plan. In many cases, a person seeking an abortion may have to pay the fees up front and then be reimbursed. But many Americans may not be able to afford the costs immediately, Long said. There may also be issues with a person’s network. Networks tend to be quite local, so traveling out of state may force the person to receive out-of-network care.

At Forma, its employees have two options, according to Fan. They can incur the costs themselves, present proof and be reimbursed. Or they can use the Forma debit card employees receive and pay expenses directly.

Employees of other companies with a different corporate culture may face privacy issues when accessing these benefits. Some people may worry on approaching their employer to apply for the benefit, Long said. In these circumstances, it may be easier to go through a health insurance plan that covers abortion-related services and be reimbursed after incurring the expenses. Going through an insurance company instead of approaching the employer can add a protective layer of confidentiality, she added.

“The right state of mind”

For companies like Forma, it was important to put together a package based on everything they know so far, despite the gray area. But he still anticipates the changes to come, Fan said.

“I think the important thing is to make sure we have the right mindset,” Fan said. “The rest is just execution, constantly being on the lookout for changes, and then being able to adjust strategy around that.”

Photo: Andrei Popov, Getty Images

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