Tuesday October 04, 2022

Roe’s imminent demise ties healthcare even closer to employers

Major corporations began to offer new benefits for their employees even before the leaked Supreme Court opinion caused chaos in the United States. This included coverage for abortion and medical travel. Amazon was the latest company to announce that it will pay for travel expenses for employees who travel to other states for medical procedures or abortions. This could allow workers who live in states that ban abortion to still receive the care they need. It could be a lifeline for employees, especially if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. This would allow states to criminalize this safe and lifesaving medical procedure.
The continuation of a US healthcare norm, in which people have to rely on their insurance to get the best care, is what employers are doing by stepping in to provide that lifeline. Employers are the last resort as legal protections fall away. Each can modify their policies at will, making coverage even more uneven across the country.
Professor Liz Brown of Bentley University studies business and gender law. She says, “We don’t have a fundamental rights to healthcare.” “A parallel development is that so many Americans get healthcare from their employers, which creates all sorts of perverse incentives.”
As states like Texas passed stricter abortion laws, companies like Match Group, Citigroup, and Yelp began to offer abortion travel benefits. These options provided employees of those companies who resided in those states with an escape route that could prove to be even more beneficial in a post-Roe world. However, if they chose to take advantage of this option, they would need to inform their employer about an abortion. This is a private procedure that can be very sensitive.
Brown states, “It is almost impossible to see how an employee could keep it private.”
Most likely, employees won’t face any repercussions for disclosing this information. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects employees from being fired if they think about or decide to have an abortion. People might not feel comfortable telling their bosses about their most personal and often-stigmatized medical situation, even though they have that protection. They may be concerned about being treated differently, even though they aren’t fired or penalized. “The big question is whether people will feel like this is something they can use,” Anna Kirkland, a University of Michigan women’s and gender studies professor, says.
The shift places abortion in line with employer programs offering mental health services or subscriptions for digital mental health programs. This is a potentially sensitive type of care that can prove difficult to access.
Brown says that the more services you receive from your employer, the more your employer can learn about you and make decisions about your health based on the services you receive.
Employees could find themselves in a difficult spot, where they must choose between sharing the information or risk losing their ability to receive the care they need. She says, “Arguably that’s worse than a privacy invasion.”
The US has a strong relationship with employment. Around half of Americans get their insurance through their employers. Kirkland states that abortion is one of the few medical procedures that does not require a relationship with an employer. Because clinics are specialized, people don’t often use their insurance to pay for these procedures. She says, “It’s kind of forced out regular healthcare.”
These travel programs allow abortion to be integrated with regular employer healthcare programs in certain ways. Brown believes that this could normalize abortion in some ways. It puts abortion on par with cancer treatment, which might lead to the need to travel to another country to find a specialist.
It also means that abortion is another service that people can be dependent upon their employer for. People who depend on their employer for this key service, like health insurance generally might feel pressured to stay at work to maintain access to it — especially if they live somewhere that bans abortions.
It also increases inequalities that exist around reproductive rights. People who work at tech companies such as Amazon, and who presumably have high incomes, have greater flexibility to live in areas with restrictions on abortion while still having access these services. Access to abortion will be less for those who work in companies that don’t consider it a priority or don’t have full-time employment with employer healthcare. Amazon contract employees, who are often lower-income, are not eligible for the travel benefit.
The Supreme Court is set to repeal constitutional protections against abortion and other institutional protections around people’s rights (like gender-affirming healthcare) are eroded. People have only one source of formal institutional support: their employer. They can change or shift policies at will.
Brown states, “It would have been better to have Constitutional Protections.” Capitalism is the only option. “We are left with employer protections.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to Top
%d bloggers like this: