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Compliance Considerations for Medical ‎Travel Reimbursement | Locke Lord LLP




Employers may consider offering medical travel and lodging reimbursements to allow workers residing in a state where abortion is no longer legal to travel out of state for such services. There are a number of ways to design a medical travel reimbursement program, each with compliance considerations. Below are some questions and answers that briefly describe various options that may be available. Each option comes with different compliance risks. In addition, before introducing new benefits, employers should consider state civil and criminal laws that may prohibit the provision of this type of assistance to employees.

Can a group health plan pay for an employee’s travel and accommodation expenses related to accessing reproductive health services?

Yes. A group health insurance plan can cover travel expenses associated with accessing medical care, including reproductive health and abortion services. The Internal Revenue Code specifically states that medical care includes amounts paid for transportation primarily for and essential to medical care related to the “diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of Affecting a structure or function of the body.” The IRS confirmed that since an abortion serves the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body, its cost is an amount paid for medical care. In this context, would be expenses for travel to a state where abortion is legal, as medical care reimbursable under an employer’s group health plan (if otherwise covered by the terms of the group health plan).

Employers should review their existing group health insurance plans to determine if the plan offers travel benefits. Most employer plans offer some form of travel allowance, typically for transplants or travel to centers of excellence/preferred medical centers. This option may not be available under a fully insured plan issued in a state that restricts access to abortion, but might be available under a fully insured plan issued in a state that restricts access to abortion not restricted, or for a self-funded plan. It is important to carefully review the terms of the plan as there may be a general exclusion that could apply to prevent coverage.

Note that all travel and accommodation expenses reimbursed through the Group Health Plan are limited to those employees/dependents who have enrolled in the Group Health Plan. Employers should confirm with their third party administrator that the administrator will manage all enhanced travel benefits and work with their ERISA advisor on any necessary plan changes.

Can group health insurance reimburse reproductive health-related travel expenses tax-free?

Yes, subject to IRS travel expense limits. Travel expenses incurred in traveling to a state to obtain a legal abortion may be reimbursed as tax-free medical expenses under an employer’s group health insurance plan. Tax laws limit the amount of tax-free reimbursement for travel and accommodation expenses and do not allow tax-free reimbursement for meals.

Can an employer provide abortion-related travel allowance to all employees, including those employees who are not enrolled in their group sickness plan?

Yes. An employer may offer all employees a travel expense reimbursement program outside of their health insurance plan, either through an existing Health Insurance Agreement (HRA), an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or a Flexible Health Expense Plan (Health FSA).

  • sick pay scheme. An employer could offer travel and lodging reimbursement under an HRA. However, to avoid an HRA violating the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the HRA must be structured as either an “integrated” HRA or an “exempt” HRA. Integrated HRAs must be offered in conjunction with a group health plan that meets the ACA minimum requirements and may only be offered to individuals covered by such plans (including another employer’s group health plan). Exempted HRAs may reimburse travel expenses related to medical care, including abortion services, but this reimbursement is capped at $1,800 per year.
  • Employee Assistance Program. EAPs are generally offered to all employees (and their dependents), regardless of whether the employee is enrolled in the employer’s group sickness plan. The EAP must be structured as an “optional benefit” to be exempt from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. To be an exempt service (1), the EAP cannot provide “substantial services in the nature of medical care”; (2) the EAP cannot be coordinated with benefits under a group health insurance plan; (3) Services under the EAP cannot be funded by another group sickness plan; (4) no employee awards or contributions are required as a condition of participation in the EAP; and (5) there is no sharing of costs under the EAP.
  • Flexible healthcare spending account. Health FSAs may reimburse reasonable medical travel expenses. An employee is not required to be enrolled in the employer’s group sickness plan in order to contribute to a healthcare FSA. Note that health FSA contribution limits are capped at $2,850 for 2022.

These types of programs must be carefully structured to comply with applicable federal laws such as ERISA, the Affordable Care Act, COBRA, and HIPAA.

Can an employer limit travel benefits to only abortion-related travel?

Unlikely. In the event that an employer’s group health plan covers Mental Health or Substance Use Disorders (“MH/SUD”) benefits, the plan must comply with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (“MHPAEA”). In general, a healthcare plan under the MHPAEA cannot impose more restrictive financial requirements or treatment limitations (both quantitative and non-quantitative) for MH/SUD services than medical/surgical services. Separate treatment restrictions that apply only to MH/SUD benefits are prohibited. By making travel benefits available only to individuals who desire an abortion (an MS benefit), the group health plan could violate the MHPAEA because an individual claiming MH/SUD benefits cannot receive a travel benefit and is subject to a more restrictive treatment restriction.

Can an employer provide a taxable travel allowance related to an abortion?

While it may be possible, a taxable travel benefit associated with an abortion carries several risks. There would be no ERISA pre-emption argument to attempt to avoid certain state civil enforcements. Employees may be reluctant to submit information to the employer to obtain compensation for travel expenses because it is their confidential health information and they are not required to disclose it to the employer. The IRS could consider the reimbursement program to be an employer payment plan, which is a “group health plan” that does not comply with the Affordable Care Act unless it is integrated with a large medical health plan that does comply with the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, if it is a group health plan, other laws such as HIPAA apply.

We have a high deductible health insurance plan. Can we pay for abortion-related travel before a participant meets the plan’s deductible?

no A high-deductible health insurance plan cannot reimburse for benefits other than those required by the Affordable Care Act until the participant meets the plan’s deductible. If the plan is paid for abortion-related travel before the plan’s deductible is met, the plan would not be considered a high-deductible health plan that entitles a participant to make contributions to a health savings account—and accordingly, the participant would not be eligible to make contributions make health savings account contributions as a result.

Could an employer or plan administrator face civil lawsuits or criminal violations in states that ban or severely restrict abortion?

Possibly. After many companies announced they would cover travel expenses and the cost of out-of-state abortion procedures, pro-choice advocates in many states have announced their intention to expand the civil and criminal provisions of their abortion laws.While ERISA pre-empts state laws relating to employee benefit plans, ERISA does not pre-empt “any generally applicable criminal law of any state.” The criminal justice carve-out prevents common criminal behavior from being immunized from law enforcement simply because it “refers” to an ERISA plan. Accordingly, courts have understood by “generally applicable” criminal laws to be those that generally prohibit conduct and apply to the entire population.

Some state criminal statutes specifically target employers who pay for voluntary abortions with criminal penalties. In addition, the general criminal law provisions of the State relating to aiding and abetting a crime could apply to the provision of financial assistance for obtaining an abortion, such as: ‎However, there is no precedent for criminalizing acts expressly permitted by the terms of a group health plan. Whether these penal laws are considered “of general application” therefore remains an open and country-specific question.

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List of Top Amazing Places to Must Visit in 2022




List of Top Amazing Places to Must Visit in 2022

Are you a newly married couple searching for new experiences and recollections collectively with out denting your financial savings account, or do you wish to plan a household journey with out spending your retirement or emergency funds? 

You may contemplate taking a travel loan from famend monetary establishments or NBFCs at reasonably priced rates of interest. Nonetheless, chances are you’ll be confused about which locations it is best to go to which can be on virtually each traveler’s record. So, listed below are probably the most appreciated locations in India and overseas the place you’ll be able to plan your journey utilizing a private mortgage. 

Listing of Prime Wonderful Locations to Should Go to in 2022

  • Assam – India

Amongst many stunning states, Assam is one with a definite id and is on the precedence record for nature lovers. There are various sanctuaries and nationwide parks the place you’ll be able to see animals just like the one-horned Rhino. You may go to many fantastically designed historical temples. Vacationers can take pleasure in quite a few scenic parks like Nehru Park, the place you’ll be able to see imposing granite sculptures.

  • Switzerland

Switzerland is the choice of people who wish to take pleasure in snow-capped mountains. A metropolis in Switzerland – Lucerne, is understood for its medieval structure in stunning mountains. Swiss chocolate and Swiss timepieces are ready for you – the one place to expertise them. Put an finish to your worries about touring bills. Take a journey mortgage with a versatile compensation facility of 12-60 months. Now you can plan the holiday you could have at all times desired.

  • Paris – France 

Paris is a vibrant and alluring touring spot recognized for the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum – the Palace of French kings, and varied different thrilling and delightful locations. You may go to iconic monuments just like the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame Cathedral, which is within the rebuilding course of, apart from the town’s quaint cafes and avant-garde artwork galleries. So, put together for a Paris journey and make your dream come true.

  • Bangkok – Thailand

Bangkok is an iconic spot for a trip. Its variety within the world-famous scrumptious road meals have to be alluring for a lot of. The largest buying centre – MBK Centre – is located in Bangkok. You may go to the Grand Palace – the official residence of the king of Thailand. Thai delicacies can be there for you.

  • London – the UK

London is likely one of the cities that has one thing for each traveller. Historical past lovers can go to the British Museum to see Egyptian mummies and Buckingham Palace to benefit from the change of guard day by day. Artwork lovers can go to the Nationwide Gallery, the place work by Leonardo Da Vinci are the important thing sights. You can too see the conflict room utilized by Churchill in World Battle 2.

  • Hong Kong 

There’s an growing variety of vacationers visiting Hong Kong, and there are various causes for this. There’s a well-known gentle present in Hong Kong Harbour. The skyline is simply as fabulous, with a particular level known as Victoria Peak. You may have a look at the sight views utilizing telescopes. There are the most important Buddha statues and scenic magnificence lined by forests. After all, how are you going to keep away from the enduring Disneyland in Hong Kong? Take pleasure in all of the rides within the Disney theme parks impressed by Chinese language tradition.

You may shortlist your favourite locations and plan your tour one after the other utilizing private loans for touring. 

Allow us to see the eligibility for the greatest private mortgage rates of interest from the main monetary establishments. 

Straightforward Eligibility for the Greatest Private Mortgage for Journey

  • Age Restrict: The mortgage applicant ought to be between 21 and 65 years previous. 
  • Fundamental Earnings: The lender needs a minimal wage of Rs.20,000 a month, relying in your metropolis. You will get a mortgage quantity as excessive as Rs.25 lakhs.
  • Credit score Rating: A mortgage applicant’s credit score rating is the first issue {that a} lender opinions to approve a mortgage quantity. Most lenders require a rating of 750+.
  • Whole work expertise: The lender checks your employment historical past to supply the greatest private mortgage rates of interest. Total work expertise ought to be a minimal of 1 yr and 6 months with the present employer.

You may verify your eligibility for a private mortgage for journey utilizing the private mortgage eligibility calculator obtainable on-line totally free. Discover one of the best NBFC providing fast private loans digitally and prepare in your journey to your favourite place internationally.

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DOT proposes new airline refund rules amid travel chaos





The Department for Transport has proposed new rules to better protect travelers if their flight is delayed, canceled or otherwise significantly changed – in response to the “barrage of complaints about air travel” the department has received since the coronavirus pandemic began , it said in a press release.

By defining when a flight can be considered canceled or significantly changed, the proposal aims to fill a gap in the Department of Transportation’s ability to prevent what it sees as unfair practices in the transportation industry and airlines to oblige consumers who they believe are victims of these practices to be reimbursed.

If it goes into effect, it would be the “biggest expansion of travelers’ rights in decades,” according to Scott Keyes, founder of a website that helps travelers search cheap flightshe wrote on Twitter.

So what does it mean for you?

What are the proposed rules?

Under the proposal, which is subject to a 90-day public consultation period, airlines and ticket sellers would have to refund consumers if they “significantly” change their flights.

This applies to domestic flights delayed by three hours or more or international flights delayed by six hours or more. It would also apply if the departure or arrival airport is changed, if additional connections are added, or if the class of service or aircraft type is changed, e.g. than expected.

If an airline published a flight in its online reservation system when the ticket was sold but ultimately did not operate the flight for any reason, it would be considered canceled under the new rules.

From traveling light to booking your flight direct with the airline, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind during particularly chaotic travel times. (Video: The Washington Post)

“When Americans buy a plane ticket, they should get to their destination safely, reliably and affordably,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in the release. “This new proposed rule would protect travelers’ rights and help ensure they receive the timely refunds they deserve from airlines.”

The new rules would also require airlines to issue ticket holders who decide not to travel because they are ill or are unable to travel due to government travel restrictions, including, for example, imposing a quarantine requirement on incoming passengers, with no expiration date. In the case of airlines receiving future government bailouts, the rule would require them to issue refunds instead of credits.

But there are limitations. For example, if someone books a flight but later new public health restrictions are imposed that would render the trip “pointless”, that person would be eligible for a non-expiring voucher or credit. But if someone does not check what is required for the trip, such as B. PCR tests, and cannot travel, he is not eligible.

How do they differ from the current rules?

Under current rulesTravelers to and from the United States are already eligible for a refund if their flight is canceled or significantly delayed and they choose not to take another option, or if they were involuntarily downgraded to a lower tier than what they paid for , to be demoted.

However, because the Department of Transportation does not define “substantial delay,” the question of whether travelers are eligible for a refund depended in practice on many factors “including the length of the delay, the length of the flight” and individual circumstances, it said. When a complaint is made, the individual process for the department to determine whether a refund is required takes a long time, she warns consumers.

Vacations Gone Wrong: Read these six stories of epic travel failures

The lack of clarity about what constitutes a canceled or significantly delayed flight has led to “disagreements between airlines about when passengers are eligible for a refund,” the transport ministry said in the press release.

Meanwhile, passengers who choose not to travel because they are ill or are particularly susceptible to illness are generally not protected by current regulations. For this reason, people who are ill and could infect others, or people who are particularly at risk of becoming seriously ill, can still travel so as not to lose the money they spent on their ticket. “This type of action by consumers is not in the public interest,” the department said.

Welcome to the travel hell of summer with lots of gas and canceled flights

When would this take effect?

The Department of Transportation’s proposed rule still has a while to go before it can be enacted. After the period of public hearing 90 days ends, the department reviews the comments and decides whether to keep the proposed rule unchanged, modify it, or withdraw it.

Anyone can comment, including businesses that would be affected by the rule. If the rules are enacted, companies can apply for an exception, which the department will only consider if it finds that “unique circumstances were not taken into account in the rule-making”.

What rights do I have if my flight is delayed now?

Travelers have reported a spike in travel issues this summer – from canceled or delayed flights to lost luggage and strikes – as many countries eased or eliminated all pandemic-related restrictions, which has led to higher demand and airports and airlines have been unable to cope.

Have nearly 550,000 flights been delayed So far this year, the United States has operated more than twice as many such flights in all of 2021, according to the Department of Transportation. More than 88,000 flights were canceled, about 3.2 percent of all flights, compared to less than 1.6 percent of flights last year.

If your flight is one of them, the current rules still apply. For a flight arriving or departing from the United States, you are eligible for a refund if your flight is canceled or significantly delayed and you decide not to choose another option. This also applies if you are involuntarily downgraded to a lower service than you paid for.

How to get refunds from an airline if your flight is cancelled

You are also entitled to compensation if you were denied boarding because your flight was overbooked and you did not voluntarily give up your seat. Airlines are allowed to overbook flights and there is no minimum they have to offer when asking travelers if someone is willing to take a later flight. passengers have reported that airlines have offered thousands of dollars for people who voluntarily get kicked off their flights.

If you are involuntarily bumped, airlines should provide you with a form detailing your compensation claims, which are often tied to arrival at your final destination. Keep in mind that most airlines require you to be checked in or at the boarding gate by a certain time in order to be eligible for compensation over and above the cost of the flight.

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First EU travel route with only digital ID pends approval: Finland to Croatia




Passengers could soon fly to Croatia from Vantaa Airport in Helsinki using a digital ID on their phones instead of a physical ID card or passport, subject to approval by the European Commission. However, in the initial phase of the project, passengers would still have to take their passports with them to return home, the reports Sanomat newspaper Helsinginvia online translation.

Finnish authorities will need guinea pigs to test the first cross-border route, but they have yet to pack their tiny suitcases. The first step is to complete the application by the end of August and await the European Commission’s decision on whether to fund the pilot. If approved, a multi-stage pilot would begin, with the Commission reportedly keen to see the results of such pilots, with a view to rolling out digital travel documents across the EU.

If approved, the project could begin by the end of the year, although there are no direct flights between the two Finland and Croatia until spring 2023. Finland is therefore considering other destinations. The Netherlands and Canada are also mentioned.

Mikko Väisänen, inspector of staff at the Finnish Border Guard, said the Commission had contacted Finland to see if it was interested in participating. The use of digital ID cards could help speed up checks.

phase out of the physical

In the first stage, a passport would still be required. Väisänen told Helsingin Sanomat that a traveler would have an app on their phone containing a digital travel document. Before the trip, they would send the information in the document to the border authorities electronically and in advance. The data will be deleted after the trip.

At the border control, a photo of the passenger is taken for identification. The passenger would have to hold the passport over the reader but not open it for a scan. This would be to read the chip. In a later step, the passenger could hold their mobile phone over the reader.

Similar plans exist for Croatia, but passengers would be required to carry physical ID to ensure they can complete all stages of the journey.

Helsinki’s Vantaa Airport would have a line for departing and arriving passengers to pass through border controls during the digital ID pilot.

The digital travel document could also eliminate the need for boarding passes and other documents, as facial recognition could be used at security and boarding instead, says Väisänen.

Finland may also plan to use it Biometrics from civil and tourist traffic Serious Crime Investigation Register.

Article Topics

biometric passport | biometrics | Croatia | digital ID card | EU | Finland | apartment | pilot project | travel documents

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