Walmart expanding abortion coverage as employers navigate post-Roe landscape

The country's largest employer is expanding abortion benefits as firms across the country navigate a minefield of laws following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Walmart will cover abortions “when there is a health risk to the mother, rape or incest, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or lack of fetal viability,” according to a company memo obtained by various news outlets.

That’s an expansion of the services Walmart’s health plans offered before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24 with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Before Dobbs, Walmart covered abortions in cases “when the health of the mother would be in danger if the fetus were carried to term, the fetus could not survive the birthing process, or death would be imminent after birth,” the Associated Press reports.

Most companies have been hesitant regarding what to do about Dobbs, but some reacted quickly. On the same day that the Dobbs decision came down, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it would refund employees seeking an abortion up to $4,000 in travel expenses.

Lauren Hobart, Dick’s president and CEO, posted the announcement on her LinkedIn page. In doing so, though, Hobart acknowledged that not everybody would be happy with that decision.

“We recognize people feel passionately about this topic—and that there are teammates and athletes who will not agree with this decision,” Hobart wrote. “However, we also recognize that decisions involving health and families are deeply personal and made with thoughtful consideration.”

The Business Group on Health (BGH), an organization representing 72 Fortune 100 companies with health insurance plans that cover more than 60 million workers and their families, within two weeks of the Dobbs decision requested that the federal government offer more guidance on what businesses should do.

Specifically, the BGH wants “guidance recognizing a universal distinction between medical travel benefits and major medical coverage, and permit compliant, tax-free medical travel benefits to be offered pre-deductible without disqualifying an individual from contributing to an HSA and without regard to whether it is offered within a group health plan.”

In addition, BGH calls for temporary “relief” for companies “regarding expected volatility in reproductive health benefit coverages and medical travel benefits during Mental Health Parity and Addition Equity Act enforcement and assessments.”

Companies aren’t the only entities keeping a wary eye on what happens post-Dobbs.

Can employers legally offer abortion coverage for employees who seek that procedure in a state in which the company’s not located? That’s just one of many question health insurance companies must deal with.

The legal publication JD Supra noted in July that “while many employers have their intention to continue to provide abortion care coverage, private and publicly traded insurers may have other considerations that give pause to adopting such a policy.”

The JS Supra article warns that the “post-Dobbs world for health plan coverage of abortion promises to remain complex for the indefinite future. Additional federal and state laws and guidance will be forthcoming and undoubtedly subject to legal challenges. As a result, 'the coming "interjurisdictional abortion wars"' predicted by the dissent in Dobbs will continue to ensnare health plans and require careful attention to an ever changing landscape.”