The trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan have unanimously approved updated coverage to include a reimbursement benefit for travel and lodging expenses related to abortion care for participants traveling out of state to receive healthcare.
SAG-AFTRA, in a statement, said it would “ensure participants will continue to have access to safe abortion services regardless of where they live or work.” The Health Plan is similar to coverage provided by the WGA and DGA unions but comes on the heels of production companies like Netflix, Disney, and Warner Bros. Discovery refusing to publicly list policies and procedures for abortion travel subsidy healthcare benefits for employees.
The SAG-AFTRA plan will reimburse travel expenses for participants, cover dependent spouses, and cover 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. A statement provided by SAG-AFTRA trustees called the updated plan a “decisive action” in the wake of the Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade earlier this year.
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.”
On July 28, over 400 industry leaders including Shonda Rhimes, Natasha Lyonne, and Abbi Jacobson collaborated on a letter to top executives at Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBCUniversal, Apple, Paramount, Lionsgate, AMC, and more production companies urging specific protocols be in place for pregnant employees throughout the U.S. The list of “grave concerns” over the handling of employees in anti-abortion states culminated in four demands including discontinuing financial donations to anti-abortion politicians.
By August 1, nearly 600 men from the industry issued a letter in support of the demands. Aaron Sorkin, Donald Glover, David E. Kelley, Ryan Murphy, J.J. Abrams, Greg Berlanti, and more were among the signatories standing in alliance with their “female, trans, and non-binary showrunner colleagues in demanding a response from our employers regarding the imminent crisis.”
Currently, the Walt Disney Corporation, United Talent Agency, Amazon, Paramount, Netflix, Comcast, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Sony have issued statements expanding employee healthcare.