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Compliance Considerations for Medical ‎Travel Reimbursement | Locke Lord LLP

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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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How to make the most of your travel advertising post-Covid: Best Media Info

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How to make the most of your travel advertising post-Covid


You can’t stop looking at those conference announcements, but if you’re anything like your travel agency’s marketing team, you don’t know what to think. You want to know what it all means, but that can be difficult when all the industry jargon and buzzwords are flying around. Fortunately, we’re here to break it down for you in our guide to making the most of your post-Covid travel promotion.

Reassure customers with your message

messaging is important to assure customers that you will do everything you can to satisfy them. For example, a sample message might look like this: We want you, our valued customer, to have confidence in our business and in what we do. We take every possible measure to ensure you travel safely when you travel with us. Our customers are our priority and we will continue to take care of them by providing informative updates on the matter. Please do not hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do for you.

Get creative with your channels

Tours and safaris are a big deal, with destinations like Africa, Asia and South America being a mainstay. But recently, self-drive tours have caught on in Europe and North America. Self drive tours in Iceland offer people the opportunity to explore countries like Iceland on their own terms. With a few designated highways or scenic routes, you can decide which area best suits your needs.

Leverage user-generated content

If you andSer Generated Contentconsider these four tips:

  • Define your niche – who is your typical traveller?
  • Establish a consistent content creation schedule – when do you publish new blog posts?
  • Leverage partnerships with influencers and experts in your industry – what do they have that you don’t have?
  • Interact with customers on social media – how can you address them with your brand’s voice?

Take advantage of offers and discounts

Post Covid, many travel agents are looking for ways to get back on their feet. One way you can use this time as an advantage is by using it Offers and discounts offered in the travel industry. For example, you can take advantage of Groupon’s vacation deals or Airbnb’s weekly deals. This makes your company more attractive and up-to-date in a competitive market. It can also attract new customers because they know they won’t have to pay full price. You can also offer your own discount or deal via social media like Facebook or Twitter promotions for 10% off purchases within the next two weeks.

Invest in SEO

Investing in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can help you get more exposure to your website so more people can find you when they search for a travel company. First, make sure your site is mobile-responsive and can be easily crawled by Google. Next, create compelling content that includes a variety of keywords and links to other pages on your site. That way, Google knows what your site is about and can rank you higher in search results.

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Finest Luxury Resorts With Outstanding Hospitality In Dubai

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One of the largest cities in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is home to some of the largest buildings ever created. New structures are added to the city almost daily, changing its appearance. It is very amazing to see how an abandoned area has developed with an abundance of huge bricks. The city has gained a reputation as a center for conducting business as well as a popular holiday destination for both domestic and foreign tourists. How else do you want to describe this metropolis if you have several names to name it? It’s a retail mecca, a honeymoon destination, a day trip destination and an entertainment hotspot, and it has an unforgettable nightlife. Known for the Burj Khalifa, the Palm Islands, its history and tranquil sand dunes, the city of Dubai attracts visitors from all over the world looking to experience its unique culture and way of life.

All of the world’s most prominent luxury hotel chains have facilities in Dubai, some of which own multiple properties. Palm Jumeirah is home to many opulent beach resorts that offer luxurious accommodations, a variety of dining options, and a plethora of water and beach activities. If you want to add something extra special to your vacation, book a trip to one of these luxurious resorts in Dubai. These resorts offer the ideal retreat from the monotonous routine of our everyday life by offering you a truly royal experience that represents the city’s upscale ambience. Here you can partake in a variety of activities, including snapping photos that will drive your Instagram followers crazy, enjoying exquisite meals, and embarking on exotic adventures.

Dubai’s best resorts with outstanding hospitality

  • Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah: The Burj Al Arab, one of the most luxurious 5 star hotels Dubai hotels, is considered the most opulent hotel in the world and is also considered the only 7-star hotel in the world. Not only known for its stunning, sailing-inspired design, the opulent resort is also located near Jumeirah Beach on a small peninsula just offshore. The massive structure contains 201 duplex apartments and the tallest atrium in the world. Each of these lavishly appointed suites features a private butler, Hermes bath products, a Jacuzzi and a choice of 9 pillow types.

Image resource: unsplash.com

  • Atlantis, the palm tree: Possibly the largest beachfront resort in the world, the gargantuan Atlantis, The Palm sits at the top of the Palm Jumeirah project and overlooks the Arabian Gulf from its recognizable central open space. It resembles a huge brown palace that acts as a gateway to Dubai. With options like Signature Suites, which have glass-walled underwater suites that look through one of the resort’s aquariums, the accommodations here are absolutely amazing. The renowned Royal Bridge Suite, one of the finest and most opulent in Dubai, sits above the hotel’s vast open space.
  • Four Seasons Resort, Jumeirah Beach: On Jumeirah Beach on the Arabian Gulf, the sumptuous Four Seasons Resort Dubai offers a true five-star experience. Some of the hotel’s rooms and suites, located near Jumeirah Beach, have views of the ocean and some of the city skyline, while other rooms have views of the resort itself. Each has a furnished balcony and luxurious marble bathrooms that feel like they’re at the spa. Families can enjoy a variety of services and activities at the resort, and the free Children for All Seasons program offers all-day supervised activities. In addition, families staying at the resort receive four passes to Dubai’s amusement and theme parks.
  • Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah: The Waldorf Dubai is located in the middle right of the Palm Jumeirah. All suites and most guest rooms offer sea views and some suites overlook the Arabian Gulf while others offer views over the water of Jumeirah Beach Residence or the downtown Dubai skyline. The suites and rooms are huge, larger than most Palm hotels, and the marble bathrooms are just as large. The Waldorf’s extensive, 200-metre-long private beach offers a variety of opportunities for relaxation and water fun.
  • Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai: This opulent beach resort is located in Jumeira, a recently built beach resort just north of the Jumeirah Beach Due to its location on a peninsula, you have a view of the sea and the skyline of Dubai on the opposite side. Modern and opulent, rooms and suites have amenities like spa-like marble bathrooms and oak-paneled entrances. Some of them have furnished balconies from which you can enjoy views of the sea or the Burj Khalifa.
  • Bulgari Resort Dubai: The Bulgari Resort in Dubai is the ideal place to stay if you are looking for a seaside resort with a yacht club. The resort is located in the newly created Jumeira Bay area, close to Jumeirah Beach, on Jumeira Bay Island. The resort is the pinnacle of luxury and one of only a handful owned by Italian jeweler “Bulgari” in the world. There’s no need to queue in a lobby, as the experience begins with in-room check-in. There are rooms, suites, and villas, ranging from opulent hotel rooms to villas that resemble mansions. Villas have features like outdoor hot tubs and private pools.
  • Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai: This resort is exceptional if you are looking for first class accommodation. The rooms offer a clear and beautiful view of the Arabian Gulf as the hotel is close to the beach. The lush grassland and white sands of the beach are the ideal complement to this award-winning hotel. Your heart and mind will settle just by strolling through its expanse. With 13 on-site restaurants, they have a full range of amenities to meet your every need. They offer a wide range of cuisines including Mexican, Italian, Continental and Arabic. You will love the food and the courteous service. At its secluded beach, you can also take part in some water sports, including kayaking, water skiing, banana boat trips, etc.

In addition to the above resorts, there are several resorts in the city where families can enjoy themselves. That concludes our list of top resorts in Dubai. In addition, Dubai has some desert resorts that represent an opulent version of a nomadic lifestyle. So choose your preferred option, make your reservation and catch the next flight to Dubai.



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The LLM Readers’ Travel Awards hits another successful year, the results are in

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bigstock-Luxury-Bora-Bora-resort-hotel--303797701


After a difficult few years for the travel and hospitality industry, 2022 has seen a resurgence in the search for luxury destinations abroad, and with renewed vigor for travel on home soil, it seems avid travelers are once again enjoying the best of both worlds.

As another year comes to an end with a bang, we at LLM are celebrating another successful awards season. 2022 marks our fifth year of highlighting the best in travel, from the best hotels around the world to premium airlines, cruise lines, destinations and tour operators.

With the sole aim of showcasing the best in their industry and providing positive publicity for those businesses and destinations, we can safely say we’ve achieved this again. Our readers love to dream and travel, and they voted by the thousands – (more than 31,000) – to give their opinion from the carefully curated shortlist of options.

View of the Burj Al Arab Hotel from Jumeirah Beach
2022 marks our fifth year of highlighting the best in travel, from the best hotels around the world to premium airlines, cruise lines, destinations and tour operators. Credit: Checco/Bigstock.com

So the results are in and this year we can safely say that the winners of each category deserved their place. You will find the full list of winners here, but we’ve rounded up some of the standout winners below. As our Editor-in-Chief Nick Gibbens commented, “We are thrilled to be able to re-launch our awards and recognize the best of the best in the industry. Hopefully, these results will encourage travelers to seek out these premium picks for their next luxury vacation.

“Our discerning and dedicated readers have spoken, and we are immensely grateful to everyone who took it upon themselves to lend their support behind each and every one of our shortlisted hotels, destinations, cruise lines, airlines, airports, tour operators and… Throw travel sites .

“The travel industry is big and employs so many people who work tirelessly to promote destinations and provide the very best service and experiences for those who love to travel, explore and relax in a variety of exquisite settings. Hopefully we can give back to those in the industry, albeit in a small way, and send our support out there as well.

“Thank you to those who took the time to apply, to those who voted, to our award contributors, and we wish everyone in the industry the very best, especially those who are just starting out or have recently made theirs doors have opened again.”

Luxury resort vacation destination idyllic overater bungalow villa woman relaxing by infinity pool
Our readers love to dream and travel, and they voted by the thousands – (more than 31,000) – to give their opinion from the carefully curated shortlist of options

So who were the standout winners?

In the UK, Linthwaite House in the Lake District has set a record in three categories in the Best UK Hotels category, winning Best Hotel for Food, Best Hotel for Wine and Best Hotel for Golf for the second year running “ Excellent, proving that this luxurious Windermere retreat really is a favorite for our readers.

The famous Hotel DUKES London beat 23 others for the Best Boutique Hotel in the UK, while the Francis Hotel in Bath took first place in both Best City Hotel and Best Hotel for Business categories. The Culloden Estate and Spa in Belfast was voted the best spa/wellness hotel in the UK and firm favorite Ellenborough Park in Cheltenham topped the list for best family hotel after winning the romance category last year.

Best Tour Operator and Best Specialist Tour Operator were won by The Luxury Travel Book and Emirates is back at the top of the list of best airlines, having won in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and being knocked out to second place by British Airways last year. Royal Caribbean tops ‘Best Ocean Cruise Line’ list for the third year running and ‘Best UK City’, Bath has ousted London at the top spot for the second year running.

Heading overseas and in the largest category – Best Hotel in Europe (outside the UK) – the Amada Colossos Resort in Rhodes, Greece was awarded, the As Janelas Verdes Hotel in Portugal’s capital Lisbon took second place and the Burgenstock Hotel and Resort, Lake Lucerne in Switzerland in third place.

Thailand certainly boasts some top hotels, with Akyra Manor Chiang Mai and Aleenta Hua Hin-Pranburi Resort and Spa taking first and second place respectively in the Best Hotel in Asia category. It was the Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa in Mahe that took the top spot in the Best Hotel in Africa category, narrowly beating South Africa’s Earth Lodge in the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve.

The NH Collection New York Madison Avenue was named Best Hotel in North America, while the Hitlon Barra in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was named Best Hotel in South America. Jade Mountain Resort in St. Lucia won the Caribbean category and Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa in Tahiti won for Oceania.

The Amalfi Coast in Italy was the winner for Best Honeymoon Destination, while Verbier in Switzerland was named Best Ski Resort and Barcelona in Spain was voted Best City for the third consecutive year.

Hopefully you will agree that this has been another great year for the awards and we look forward to visiting and utilizing the services of the above distinguished winners.

Click here for the full list of winners.

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