Insurer's Response to Dobb's Decision - Is Teleabortion the Answer?

Sarah Raaii, co-chair of McDermott Will & Emery’s multidisciplinary post-Roe team, and Cat Duffy, policy analyst of the National Health Law Program, address the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the court held that the Constitution of the United States does not confer a right to abortion.

Sarah Raaii, co-chair of McDermott Will & Emery’s multidisciplinary post-Roe team, and Cat Duffy, policy analyst of the National Health Law Program, addressed the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision of the Supreme Court in which the court held that the Constitution of the United States does not confer a right to abortion.

Related: How Employers, Insurers are Coping With Abortion After Dobbs

Raaii and Duffy also touched on how health insurers are responding to the Dobbs decision and shared what they think if travel benefits or "teleabortion" will be a way for women in states with abortion restrictions to get abortions.

Duffy said they have seen some health insurers and many other corporations different corporations step up to offer new benefits to cover travel for employees who are located in states that are hostile to abortion access, where access has been eliminated.

She added those travel benefits have taken a couple different forms. For example, some companies are explicitly adding travel benefits to their pre-existing insurance policy. Some have created reimbursement programs where the employee would have to front the costs upfront and then get reimbursed by the company. Others are stipend programs and different varieties beyond that.

Raaii said teleabortion seems like the most popular potential solution to not directly provide abortion services and pay for them in restrictive states.

These travel benefits would allow benefit plan administrators to set up a reimbursement for medical travel expenses. These expenses can cover medical travel for medically necessary procedures or services to simply reproductive healthcare.

Raaii added potentisl risks can develop depending on how these benefits are actually covered and described to mitigate some of the uncertain risks that largely remain to be seen from states and how they are deciding to enforce these laws.

However, there are ways to structure the medical travel benefits to try to minimize some of that risk if states do decide to ban abortion in their states.

"Medical travel benefits could be one solution," Raaii said. "There's some other creative solutions that we've helped clients work out if for whatever reason, their service provider, for instance, can't accommodate travel benefits for reproductive healthcare.

"It seems like most of these conversations are about travel benefits, and certainly that's been most widely covered in the media as a potential solution. So we'll continue to advise on that I'm sure in in the weeks and months to come."