COVID-19: Developments in Employee Benefits

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Health Plan Coverage of COVID-19. Colorado has become the latest state to instruct insured health plans to cover COVID-19 testing and benefits (such as office visits) at no cost to the member. The Colorado guidance is available here. The directive also encourages promotion of telemedicine programs and easing restrictions on prescription refills. Other states that have similar directives include California, Oregon, Washington, and New York. Employers sponsoring insured health plans in these states and Colorado should work with their insurer to confirm that these requirements are being met.

The IRS also clarified in Notice 2020-15 that the cost of testing for or treatment of COVID-19 will not be disqualifying coverage with respect to health savings account (HSA) eligibility for individuals covered by a high deductible health plan (HDHP).

While employers that sponsor self-funded health plans are not impacted by state directives on insured plans, those employers might want to consider making similar benefits available to their plan participants.

Paid-Leave for COVID-19. Colorado has also directed its agencies to engage in rulemaking to ensure that workers in certain critical fields (such as health care, food handling, hospitality, and child care) have access to paid sick leave if the workers exhibit flu-like symptoms and/or are awaiting COVID-19 test results. More details are here. The state is also exploring using resources such as unemployment insurance to cover individuals who miss work due to testing positive for COVID-19 and lack paid leave through the employer. Other states, and potentially the federal government, may provide similar directives and initiatives.

HIPAA Considerations. As a reminder, employer-sponsored health plans, as covered entities, and business associates are subject to restrictions under HIPAA with respect to protected health information. A bulletin from HHS provides background on HIPAA privacy and security rules as it relates to COVID-19, available here.

This is a quickly evolving area. Stay tuned for more information.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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