College will cover lodging, transportation for employees seeking abortion services

Annie Lu

The College has adopted an amendment to its employee health insurance plans that will cover transportation and lodging costs for plan members who seek abortion services and reside in a state in which such services are restricted, Chief Human Resources Officer Danielle Gonzalez announced in the Daily Messages on Monday. 

The amendment applies exclusively to employees who use the College’s medical insurance — students enrolled in the Williams Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) do not have access to this new benefit, although they are entitled to arrange transport to local abortion providers through the College at no cost. 

The new benefit covers transportation and lodging costs when the plan member “must travel more than 100 miles in each direction from their residence to the nearest qualified covered provider that can furnish the covered service,” the announcement webpage states. If a companion’s presence is necessary for the member to receive abortion services, the coverage may also extend to one companion. This policy change was made retroactive to June 1 of this year, allowing employees to request reimbursement for travel expenses incurred from that date onward.

According to Gonzalez, this change to employee health benefits was catalyzed by the Supreme Court decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which held in June that there is no constitutional right to abortion. Since Dobbs, at least 14 states have enacted laws banning abortion entirely, with four more restricting abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or less and several others weighing abortion legislation in the courts. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has affirmed that abortions will remain legal in the state, but Gonzalez noted that some individuals covered under the College’s plan receive medical care out of state.

In order to account for members seeking out-of-state abortion care after Dobbs, the College began exploring options with its insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachutts, Gonzalez said. “We felt providing enhanced services through our insurance coverage would be the preferred route so that an individual’s personal health information would be protected, [rather] than having to share sensitive personal health information with their employer to seek reimbursement.”

A small number of faculty who may be living out-of-state while on sabbatical, commuting to campus, or working at a College program outside Massachusetts would be affected by this change — as would any of their dependents on the same medical plan. 

“It is difficult to know for sure,” Gonzalez said of the precise number of employees who may seek healthcare outside Massachusetts.

Although this new benefit is specific to employees on the College’s medical plan — student health insurance is administered separately — students may use non-emergency transport services to Albany or Springfield-area providers at no cost through the College, according to the College’s reproductive healthcare access resource page. For students seeking abortion care while they are away from campus in a restrictive state, the webpage advises them to contact Director of Intimate Violence Prevention & Response and Health Education Meg Bossong ’05 to discuss their options.