Effective today, the WGA Health Fund will reimburse reasonable travel expenses for participants and their spousal dependents who have to travel to another state to receive abortion services.
“As you know, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, And abortion is now illegal in many states,” the WGA West’s board said in a communique to members on Monday, noting that the Writers Guild-Industry Health Fund “already covers pregnancy termination for writer participants and their eligible spousal dependents in all circumstances.” The Fund also already covered pregnancy termination for eligible dependent children “when the pregnancy termination constitutes an emergency service.”
The WGA East’s Council sent a similar letter this afternoon to its members.
Effective August 1, the West’s board said, “the Fund will also reimburse reasonable travel expenses incurred by participants and eligible spousal dependents who reside or temporarily work in covered employment in a state where abortion is illegal, and who need to travel to obtain those services . The Fund will also reimburse reasonable travel expenses incurred when participants, spousal dependents and eligible dependent children need emergency abortion services.”
The letter to members also explained the rules that apply to the new travel reimbursement benefit, which include:
1. You must obtain preauthorization in order to receive reimbursement of travel expenses for non-Emergency pregnancy termination services. If preauthorization isn’t obtained when it is required, no Travel Reimbursement Benefit will be payable. Preauthorization is not required when the pregnancy termination constitutes emergency services (for example, termination of an ectopic pregnancy).
2. You must be unable to obtain pregnancy termination services without undergoing travel because you reside or are temporarily working in covered employment in a state where pregnancy termination is illegal.
3. You may travel to a provider in the state or major metropolitan area closest to where the services are legal. If you are away from home in a temporary work location, you can also choose to travel home if pregnancy termination is legal there.
4. Travel under this provision is limited to travel within the United States.
“In all instances, travel expenses must be primarily for, and essential to, accessing pregnancy termination services performed by a licensed medical provider acting within the scope of his or her license. Travel expenses that are not primarily for and essential to accessing pregnancy termination services are not Eligible Expenses and will not be reimbursed. “
Covered transportation includes:
• Bus, taxi, train, or plane fares (only coach fare is an eligible expense).
• Transportation expenses of a parent or legal guardian who must accompany a participant under 18 or a covered dependent child (limited to emergency services). Otherwise, travel expenses for a friend, family member, or other support person are not eligible.
Covered lodging includes:
• Lodging will not be reimbursed if you travel home to receive pregnancy termination services.
• The lodging expense amount must be reasonable as determined by the Health Plan, but in no event greater than $300 per night.
“Please note that 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.”
Covered car expenses:
- If you use your own car, mileage is reimbursable at the current medical mileage rate. The standard medical mileage rate is currently $0.22. Parking fees and tolls are also eligible, but gas is not.
- You can instead receive reimbursement for reasonable rental car expenses. In that case, gas, parking fees and tolls would be eligible but mileage would not.
- Daily local travel is not reimbursed
Receipts and documentation required:
- Reimbursement for the cost of lodging (hotel, motel) requires a copy of the paid invoice.
- Reimbursement of transportation requires a copy of itinerary and paid ticket receipt.
- Reimbursement for mileage requires a printout documenting the shortest route showing the mileage associated with that route.
- Reimbursement for rental cars and gas for rental cars requires paid receipts.
- Reimbursement of parking requires paid parking receipts.
- Reimbursement of tolls requires a toll receipt or printout of a toll pass paid invoice.
Expenses that are not eligible include:
- Meals (other than meals provided through inpatient care).
- Childcare expenses/babysitting.
- Extending an otherwise-medical trip for vacation or personal enjoyment.
Expenses for a caregiver or travel companion other than a parent or legal guardian accompanying a Participant or covered Dependent Child (limited to emergency services) under age 18.
Both letters were signed “In solidarity” by the WGA West’s board and the WGA East’s Council.
Signing for the WGAW board were:
Meredith Stiehm, President
Michele Mulroney, Vice President
Betsy Thomas, Secretary-Treasurer
Dante W. Harper
Deric A. Hughes
E. Nicholas Mariani
Patric M. Verrone