Calls for Expanded COBRA Coverage

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With nearly 40 million workers laid off or furloughed as a result of the Coronavirus, many organizations have urged Congress to expand COBRA coverage. Most of their concerns are focused on encouraging Congress to subsidize COBRA premiums for these workers so that existing health conditions will not get worse because care is delayed.

To date, the Department of Labor and the IRS have extended the time period workers have to decide to enroll in COBRA. With the President’s order setting the end of the national emergency for COVID-19 at June 29th, individuals would have until August 28th to enroll in COBRA. DOL and IRS have also given workers 30 days beyond the end of the national emergency to pay their COBRA premiums for March, April, May and June. Should the Administration decide to extend the national emergency, these timelines would be adjusted accordingly.

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A Time for Leadership

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There are many concerns that cause top executives to lose sleep, but the events of the past couple months have tested business owners and decision makers in ways that can only be described as unprecedented.

The uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus coupled with a burning desire to get back to business have created an increasingly dynamic and stressful time. From manufacturers scrambling to provide healthcare workers with PPP to non-essential businesses that have had to furlough workers, most CEOs are faced with the biggest challenges of their careers. And while employees are able to share their concerns, leaders must have the courage to hide theirs. Real leaders are able to endure intense pressure while making sure the people around them don’t sense it.

Ensuring Safety & Access to Care

The reality is that in the face of this pandemic, true leaders are preparing rather than panicking. After taking steps to keep people safe, they’re thinking and planning for a future that will likely be very different. Leaders know that staying calm is critical to sound decision making. Clear thinking helps them communicate with confidence and listen in a way that calms other’s fears. In a crisis, taking the time to listen can make all the difference to a worker finding it really difficult to cope.

While some insurance carriers are waiving member copays, co-insurance and deductibles for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and treatment, some states are mandating it. While state mandates don’t apply to self-funded plans, some plan sponsors have chosen to provide COVID-19 patients with first dollar coverage. These actions require the approval of your stop loss carrier since related claims may exceed your stop loss deductible. A written and executed plan amendment is also required. As always, we stand ready to help with these requirements as well as the expansion of HDHP, HSA and FMLA benefits included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. We hope you will contact us if your plan is facing any of these issues.

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No-Deductible COVID-19 Care

ebso-covidUninsured people needing medical treatment for the coronavirus will be able to get that treatment without concerns about out-of-pocket costs or unexpected charges. Thanks to the federal stimulus package passed by Congress in early April, hospitals and healthcare providers that treat these folks will be paid for unreimbursed care at current Medicare rates.

While the law does not require that health insurance carriers and employer-sponsored health plans waive cost-sharing charges such as deductibles and coinsurance for coronavirus patients requiring medical treatment, many groups are pushing for this relief. In response, some large insurance carriers and health plans have said they would waive out-of-pocket costs for in-network COVID-treatment through the end of May. Pressure for this relief is expected to mount as shutdowns of non-essential businesses continue and more and more workers are laid off or furloughed.

Relief for HDHPs and HSAs

In another emergency ruling, the IRS said that HSA users with high deductible health plan coverage can use their coverage to pay for testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 pneumonia, without having to be concerned about satisfying the minimum deductible requirements common to HSA coverage. The same flexibility will now also apply to HSA account holders who need to use their coverage to pay for treatment of COVID-19 pneumonia. The IRS has cautioned that this guidance only applies to the COVID-19 emergency and does not void the other requirements governing High Deductible Health Plans and Health Savings Accounts. Since regulations and requirements regarding benefits for COVID-19 continue to evolve rapidly, plan members are advised to consult their health plan before seeking testing or treatment.

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How COVID-19 Is Transmitted

ebso-covid19-updateAccording to the CDC, the Coronavirus is thought to spread mainly through being close enough to an infected person to be touched by respiratory droplets discharged by coughing, sneezing or talking. These droplets can land in the mouth or nose or be inhaled into the lungs. Physicians suggest the virus can spread very easily between people, but not quite as easily by touching something that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says the Coronavirus is detectable in the air for up to 3 hours, but that a very small amount can remain on cardboard for 24 hours and on plastic or stainless steel for as long as 2-3 days. The WHO says the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is very low and that catching the virus from a transmitted package is also very low.

While physicians on the Administration’s Coronavirus Task Force consistently agreed that masks were only needed by healthcare workers, authorities now recommend that masks be worn by all when going outdoors or to public places such as grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.

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