Back to Blog

Top 5 considerations for evaluating a Medical Travel benefit

Many companies are pledging to cover travel costs for employees to access care that may not be available locally, and Level’s Medical Travel benefit is an option to deliver on this commitment. While interest in covering travel costs has grown in response to the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, Level began designing this benefit in 2021 with the goal of increasing access to any type of medical care, from MRIs to pediatric specialists to gender affirming care and more. 

HR leaders are looking to quickly find and roll out a solution, but there are many considerations and trade-offs to evaluate, from a legal and tax perspective as well as the confidentiality and ease of user experience for both employees and employers. To share what we’ve learned from the past year working alongside ERISA experts to build the Medical Travel benefit, below are the top five considerations highlighted by the Level team in our recent webinar, “Covering Medical Travel Costs: Your Questions Answered.”

Top 5 considerations for evaluating a Medical Travel benefit

1. Consider the employee experience

Current IRS restrictions significantly limit the amounts that can be reimbursed for expenses like lodging, mileage and companion travel. In addition, many options require an employee to pay for all of the costs up front. When deciding how to deliver a medical travel benefit, it’s important to consider the employee experience: lengthy approval processes, documentation requirements, timelines for reimbursement. Each of these factors can impede your employees from getting the care they need.

“It is absolutely critical that the employee experience is smooth, that it's not clunky. Some questions from an employee experience standpoint you want to be able to ask:

Is there a prior authorization process?
Are there limitations that would stop your employee from being able to go to a certain area?
Does the employee have to pay for all of this and then seek reimbursement?

Consider if there will be benefit provisions that are built into the program that can't be customized or can't be adjusted in order to ease the burden to a traveler seeking medical care. You want to make it as easy to use as possible, especially in what may be a time of crisis for your employee.”

Eric Dahms, Enterprise Lead
2. Deliver flexibility by choosing a taxable benefit

With the significant limitations set by the IRS on medical travel, it could still be cost-prohibitive for your employees to access the care they need. Level designed its Medical Travel benefit to exceed IRS limitations to empower employers in focusing on an overall dollar limit for the benefits that is right for their employees, either on an annual or lifetime basis.  

“We've had clients implement this benefit through their medical plan, which then has to follow the tax limits in order to maintain the tax-qualified status of that entire health plan offering. Then, leaders come back to us and say, ‘I can't ask people to stay at a hotel for $50 a night. How can we fix this?’ Level’s Medical Travel benefit is designed to prevent this hurdle.” 

Rebecca Bush, Lead Counsel, Tax
3.  Be mindful of compliance guidelines

A medical travel benefit is most likely a group health plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). This means requirements for a written plan document must be met. With Level’s Medical Travel benefit, our team provides your employees with a detailed Benefit Booklet as well as a Benefit Summary highlighting the terms of coverage and details. Level also collects individual consent to electronic distribution of all plan documentation directly through Level’s member app, making it easy to integrate and access the benefit. 

As an excepted benefit Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Level’s Medical Travel benefit is designed to be exempted from certain Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates for group health plans, such as the ACA’s prohibition on annual limits. 

ERISA and ACA compliance go hand-in-hand with ensuring a transparent and flexible medical travel experience for your employees.

4. Follow industry benchmarks

You can offer your employees an annual amount or lifetime amount for medical travel – it’s up to you to determine the design that will best meet the needs of your team. Many companies have established a medical travel benefit ranging from $2,000 annually to $4,000 in lifetime coverage. Level recommends not exceeding those benchmarks as regulations pertaining to excepted benefit EAPs require that a plan does not provide significant benefits in the nature of medical care.

“Though there aren’t set limits for an appropriate amount for a medical travel benefit, we are seeing a lot of conversation around a $4,000 lifetime benefit or a $2,000 annual benefit.” 

Kathleen Harris, Solutions Lead
5. Offer Medical Travel to all employees

The Dobbs v. Jackson decision brought more attention to an important existing need for employers to find a solution to assist employees with the cost of medical travel. Level’s Medical Travel Benefit isn’t limited to reproductive care and can be used by any employee for travel expenses related to any medical treatment not available locally.

Supporting your employees through a Medical Travel benefit is one more way to foster a company culture of inclusivity. And at Level, we are committed to enabling companies to increase access to care and services for all employees.

We’re here to help

If you’re looking to cover employees’ travel costs for any type of medical care and would like to learn more about the Medical Travel benefit, please reach out here to chat with our expert team.