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.
Umrah and Its benefits
Umrah is one of the most important Sunnahs of Prophet Muhammad, and many of his sayings encourage people to do it. Muslims choose to do this important Sunnah by booking All Inclusive Umrah Packages 2023 all over the world. It is like the fifth main pillar of Islam, which is called Hajj, and is sometimes called a “mini Hajj” or “mini pilgrimage.” Umrah has a lot of blessings and benefits that are hard to count.
Benefits and rewards of Umrah:
Muslims get a lot of worldly and religious benefits from Umrah, and it also cleans their souls. When Muslims think about the benefits of Umrah, it blows their minds. All of the good things that come from doing Umrah are listed below.
Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad:
The best thing about Umrah is that it is the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, and when someone does Umrah, they follow one of Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnahs. If you follow just one Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, you will be rewarded in ways you can’t even imagine. People who do Umrah get all the benefits of doing Umrah, and by going to the Roza of Rasool, they feel closer to Rasool.
Forgiveness of past sins:
Umrah is the act of worship that washes away all the bad things a person has done and makes them as clean as a newborn baby. Before he did Umrah, the Holy Prophet said that it was a way to make up for all of his sins. Muslims do this worship to get rid of the sins they have done in the past.
Removal of poverty:
Another good thing about Umrah is that it gets rid of poverty. This is also something that Prophet Muhammad said in a Hadith. Allah is so happy with the person who does Umrah that He starts to give him all of His blessings. He gives the person who does Umrah money.
Physical and spiritual strength:
Muslims get physical strength from Umrah because it requires them to travel to holy sites and walk while doing Tawaf of the Kabah and Sa’eey. It gives pilgrims spiritual strength as well.
Strengthens and empowers faith:
Faith is strengthened and made stronger by Umrah. During Umrah, Muslims visit holy places like the House of Allah, which makes their faith stronger. During the days of Umrah, Muslims also don’t do anything wrong. They live a pure life in the holy places, paying respect to the Holy Kabah and all other holy places.
Guest of Allah:
During Umrah, a Muslim is a guest of Allah, and Allah gives him many of His blessings. Allah helps Him by giving him rewards and benefits, and He also forgives His sins from his past lives.
Unity and brotherhood:
Another benefit of Umrah is that it brings Muslims from all over the world together in one place. When all Muslims do the same things in the same way and wear the same clothes, it looks beautiful to the rest of the world. During the rituals of Umrah, there are no longer any differences between people.
Equality and humility:
Every year, millions of Muslims do Umrah. Even though they come from different parts of the world and have different cultures, they all wear Ihram. They are humble because they wear simple white clothes, and they are all equal because they look the same. You will realize these things when you will perform the Umrah pilgrimage after booking cheapest umrah packages.
What should Ladies wear for Umrah?
Here’s an article about what women should wear to Umrah from our travel agency, which also offers the best and Cheapest Umrah Packages 2023. Umrah clothes are another name for Ihram clothes. In order to do the Umrah pilgrimage, you have to enter the state of Ihram, which means “not to pollute” in Arabic. Wearing the right Ihram clothes is an important part of doing Umrah because it shows how united Muslims are.
The Ihram clothing is simple and uniform, so there aren’t too many differences between believers. Ihram clothing was made to break down the economic and social differences between pilgrims, showing that all men, no matter their class or rank, are equal in God’s eyes. The right clothes for Umrah are based on both spiritual and practical factors, like the weather and cultural norms. Here are some things to think about when picking out clothes for Umrah for women.
• The Ihram and the clothes for the Umrah
Before going on Umrah, or a minor pilgrimage, a person must enter Ihram, a holy state of dedication and cleanliness. To enter Ihram, you must wear Ihram clothes. When it comes to what men and women should wear for Umrah, there are a few rules to follow. Dress rules for Umrah are less strict for women than they are for men.
Women can go into the state of Ihram in any clothes they want, as long as they are clean. Women can wear any colour they want as long as they cover their whole bodies except for their faces and hands. Most of the women in Ihram wear white or black Abayas and Hijabs. Women’s Umrah dresses can include shoes and other types of closed footwear.
• What are the best clothes for Umrah in Makkah?
The weather in Saudi Arabia can get very hot at times. So, bring clothes made of different materials so that you can still breathe even when it’s hot outside. Most of the time, basic cotton clothes are the best choice. It’s not a good idea to wear black. Even though black is not against the rules, it absorbs heat quickly and might be uncomfortable. Pilgrims who do Umrah have to walk a long way, so it is best to bring only what they need. Bring only the things you need to make your bags lighter. Choose clothes that are easy to wash, don’t need to be ironed much, and are good for travelling. Those who want to go to Madinah in the winter should bring a light jacket and a sweater. Women could also bring an umbrella to protect themselves from the hot sun.
• Umrah Dress Code That Fits With Culture
Women should dress conservatively and wear long, loose clothes. They should wear a Hijab to cover their hair instead of a loose scarf. Even though it’s not required, it’s a good idea for women to wear an Abaya made of soft, breathable fabric. Because it is loose, not see-through, and hides the shape of the body while still keeping you cool. Women could also wear Shalwar Kameez or another traditional outfit.
• Umrah shoes that don’t cost too much
Umrah requires a lot of walking, so wearing the right shoes can make a big difference in how comfortable your feet are. Wearing shoes that aren’t comfortable can make you tired and cause swelling, blisters, and other pain that you don’t need. During Umrah, you should try not to buy any new shoes. It could take a long time for brand-new shoes to soften and relax enough to be comfortable. It is suggested that you wear shoes that have already broken in enough to be comfortable. Those who don’t have the right shoes should buy a pair a week before the trip and wear them every day to break them in. if you are living in UK then you have to avail the cheap umrah packages uk from Baitullah Travel.
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Check Here Which Online Travel Agent Is Best For Your Business?
Which online travel agency, Viator or Get Your Guide, is the better choice for your company?
Online travel agencies, sometimes known as OTAs, function much like online marketplaces, in which providers of tours and activities from all over the world can offer their wares for sale. After that, OTAs commit a significant amount of time and resources to the process of aggregating services from locations all over the world and promoting their inventory to customers all over the world.
Viator and Get Your Guide are the two most significant competitors in this industry. Despite the fact that OTAs have been seeing moderate but steady growth over the past few years, they are still significantly behind their competitors in the hospitality sector, such as booking.com.
Since the time that this article was written, we have published a guide that allows you to make side-by-side comparisons of the following companies: Viator, Expedia, GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, KLOOK, and Civitatis.
A brief introduction to Viator and GetYourGuide
Viator, which has its headquarters in San Francisco, was acquired by TripAdvisor in the year 2014. Since that time, they have abandoned the practise of pre-screening and curating the operators with whom they collaborate in favour of opening up their platform so that additional businesses can sell on Viator. Since TripAdvisor was able to generate traffic and volume to Viator, this would be beneficial to a greater number of operators, offering operators more bookings than they had previously.
Viator has recently released a platform that allows travel agents to book from a selection of 100,000 trips spanning more than 2,400 locations and earn a commission of 8% on each reservation.
The company has partnerships with major organisations such as Air France, InterContinental Hotels Group, and Priceline, and it operates 10 websites in the native languages of the countries in which it operates affiliate sites.
Over 30,000 different tours and activities are offered by GetYourGuide in over 2,500 different locations spread over more than 110 countries. GetYourGuide, which has its headquarters in Berlin, makes the promise that it can find its users the most relevant and individualised travel experiences. To expand its business in 2015, the company was successful in raising a staggering $50 million in finance, a number that had never been seen in the industry previously. In 2017, the company was successful in securing an additional 75 million dollars in finance to further expand its operations abroad.
After securing relationships with the airlines EasyJet and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in 2017, the company now enables clients to book excursions and activities after reserving their flights through the airlines’ respective websites or mobile applications. The companies Emirates, Hotels.com, hotel.info, airberlin vacations, Opodo, Thomas Cook, and Lufthansa Holidays are among the other significant partners of the company.
Viator and GetYourGuide are well-known internet companies that have partnered with leading competitors in their respective industries, putting your goods in front of a wider audience.
Viator offers a network of 3,500 global affiliate partner websites, which include major online travel agencies, airlines, and hotel organisations. It also has a network of 390 million monthly trip planners, which includes visitors to TripAdvisor. Viator has made its website accessible in thirteen different languages, which has helped them attract users from all around the world. In addition to this, Viator also manages its global advertising programme across the platforms of Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Facebook.
Through its purchase of Viator, TripAdvisor has gained a significant advantage in terms of the number of viewers on its site as well as what is known as referral traffic. Before the acquisition, both GetYourGuide and Viator had “book now” buttons on the TripAdvisor listings of their respective providers. Clicking on those buttons brought the user to the appropriate page on either Viator or GetYourGuide. Following the takeover, this was one of the features deleted from GetYourGuide.
Viator collaborates with more than 175,000 travel agents and maintains relationships with suppliers from all over the world. As a result, the company provides increased visibility and access to millions of customers. On their platform for travel agencies, suppliers who offer real-time bookability have the potential to acquire a great deal more bookings than they have in the past because of the huge number of customers that Viator is able to bring to their website.
In a similar vein, GetYourGuide assures its providers that they will see increased sales and reservations. They have a network on online platforms, partner websites, mobile apps for GetYourGuide, and other distribution methods, all of which boost the exposure of the products that suppliers sell in order to generate more sales for those suppliers. GetYourGuide’s partners market its inventory to improve sales using a wide variety of approaches, including but not limited to white label solutions, widgets, links, ads, XML-integrations, pre-trip email integrations, and many more.
GetYourGuide’s use of technology to streamline the booking process has been brought to light as a result of its relationships with major airlines. As part of this effort, clients are given the option of booking and paying for their vacations in a paperless environment.
Because the volume of visits to your website is essential to your online success, here are some statistics.
Viator maintains its position as the market leader in terms of traffic. It has an estimated 9 million visitors per month, which places it among the top 10,000 websites in the world in terms of web traffic. GetYourGuide, on the other hand, comes in a distant second with 5 million visitors per month. Within the past two years, their website has undergone significant expansion.
Viator’s traffic is heavily concentrated in the United States, which accounts for 34% of the company’s total traffic. Other popular countries are the United Kingdom (representing 6%), Canada (representing 5%), Australia (representing 4%), and Brazil (representing 4%).
The United States is also the primary source of traffic to GetYourGuide, accounting for 18% of it. The United Kingdom comes in second, with 8%, followed by Indonesia (5%), India (4%), and Germany (4%).
Get the most recent traffic statistics on Viator and GetYourGuide by clicking these links.
Costs related to commissions
Working with online travel agencies (OTAs), despite the huge visitor volume that they are able to garner, is not without its drawbacks.
To begin, there is a sizable commission that must be paid, which is especially the case if you are dependent on OTAs for the majority of your bookings. Although there is no cost associated with signing up, both companies do take a percentage on sales.
Commission on Viator is often set at 20% of the price that is being advertised. Because they don’t want you to undercut them on your website, they need that you provide them the lowest price feasible. In addition, you are forced to give them the lowest price possible.
GetYourGuide isn’t as straightforward and determines the commission amount dependent on the destination of the supplier and the kind of activities that are being given. The total booking costs, such as those associated with credit card fees and bank transactions, as well as the promotion of your excursions through its distribution partners, are covered by the commission rate. Free services including customer support, marketing strategies, content optimization, and translation are also made available to you. Moreover, these services are offered to you without charge. The commission rate, which can range anywhere from 20% to 30% depending on the supplier’s volume, will be determined by your account manager. Higher volume suppliers will receive lower commission rates.
Second, the cancellation rules that are guaranteed by OTAs might often place operators in a difficult position. Customers who cancel their reservations with Viator at least seven days in advance are eligible for a full refund. If they cancel between three and six days in advance, they are eligible for a return of fifty percent.
Customers who use GetYourGuide have the ability to cancel their tours up to twenty-four hours before the time that they were due to depart and still receive a full refund. When trying to estimate demand and sales for the next month, this can be challenging for business owners and managers.
When looking at Viator and GetYourGuide side-by-side, Sean O’Neil from Skift reports that “Viator’s booking numbers have climbed since (TripAdvisor’s) acquisition, (but) the growth of the product offering has (since) stalled.” GetYourGuide, on the other hand, continues to see steady growth in its product offering. According to the same article, Andrew Middleton, head of ancillary revenue for the low-cost airline EasyJet, chose GetYourGuide because they have “the most comprehensive range of tours and activities to suit everyone,” which includes “traditional or alternative sightseeing tours, as well as adventure activities and attraction passes.”
It’s possible that this is a sign that Viator is oversaturated with the same tours and activities from the same popular locations. This is something that operators should keep in mind. It is possible that you will have a difficult time fighting through all of the competition on the platform if you do not have an engaging product or service that differentiates you from your competitors.
Instructions for registering with Viator and GetYourGuide
Signing up does not cost anything in any scenario.
Visit Viator’s Supplier Sign-up website in order to become a supplier for the company. You will first be presented with an application form after clicking on the sign-up button, and then you will be shown the agreement that you need to accept. You will be provided with a login ID and a password for Viator’s extranet upon the supplier’s acceptance of the agreement. This is the primary account that the vendors have access to. Through the use of this platform, they are able to add and edit items, view bookings, manage customers, and perform many other tasks.
Visit GetYourGuide’s Supplier Administration page in order to register for an account with the company. Suppliers can sign up for an account by filling out a form on this page that requests their contact information. After that, you will be sent an email with instructions on how to finish registering for the service by following the link provided and also consenting to the terms and conditions imposed by the company. Following this step, your account will be prepared for use.
Through the facilitation of back-end connections between TrekkSoft and the OTA of the customer’s choosing, the entire reselling and management process is made more straightforward for TrekkSoft’s clientele. TrekkSoft will automatically update the number of available seats for that trip across all of your sales channels whenever one of your customers booked their trip through an online travel agency (OTA).
In addition to this, every time a consumer orders a trip through an online travel agency (OTA), TrekkSoft will instantly update the number of open spots for that particular trip across all of your sales channels.
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