Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter

March 16, 2020

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[Official Guidance]

EBSA Report on MHPAEA Investigations for Fiscal Year 2019 (PDF)

"EBSA investigated and closed 186 health plan investigations in FY 2019 ... Of these, 71 investigations involved fully-insured plans, 91 investigations involved self-insured plans, and 24 investigations involved plans of both types ... 183 of these closed investigations involved plans subject to MHPAEA, which were reviewed for MHPAEA compliance. Of these, 68 investigations involved fully-insured plans, 91 investigations involved self-insured plans, and 24 investigations involved plans of both types  ... EBSA cited 12 MHPAEA violations in 9 of these investigations."

Employee Benefits Security Administration [EBSA], U.S. Department of Labor [DOL]

[Official Guidance]

Text of FEHB Program Carrier Letter 2020-02 on Novel Coronavirus (PDF)

"This letter provides information to FEHB Program Carriers on issues surrounding SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus, which has caused COVID-19 disease in China and other countries, including the United States."

U.S. Office of Personnel Management [OPM]

[Guidance Overview]

New Jersey Deadline is March 31, 2020 for Healthcare eFiling

"Here is a guide to determining your organization's readiness and a few practical tips if your organization is to go forward and attempt this NJ eFiling.... [S]maller employers may not have the capacity for electronic filing of information in the very specific data format (XML) which was initially required. This puts them at risk for potential penalties for both the company and possibly the employee. A new paper Fillable PDF is now available for under 100 Forms."

BenefitScape

[Guidance Overview]

Using Leave-Sharing Plans with COVID-19

"If an employer sponsors a 'major disaster leave-sharing plan' that meets [certain requirements]: Employees who donate leave will NOT be taxed on the donated leave time. Employees who use donated leave will be taxed on the donated leave time used -- e.g., the donated leave time used is treated as W-2 wages for all income and employment tax withholding purposes."

Jackson Lewis P.C.

[Guidance Overview]

Emergency School Closures and Paid Sick Leave: What Employers Need to Know

"In at least seven states, school closings caused by a public health emergency are a qualifying reason to take paid sick leave. Those states are Arizona, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Several localities also have mandatory paid sick leave allowances that include emergency school closings."

Hunton & Williams LLP

Employer Obligations Under the Proposed Families First Coronavirus Act (H.R. 6201)

"[T]here is some confusion about what the bill entails, as there are two different versions of the bill out there -- including on Congress' own sites and what is being reported by the press.... [It] appears the legislation will only apply to employers that have less than 500 employees. In its current form, the bill would amend the FMLA to provide temporary additional reasons for leave related to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis and to provide pay for such FMLA leave beyond 2 weeks at a reduced rate. In addition, a new federal paid sick leave law would be put in place whereby employers would need to provide up to 80 hours (or for part-time employees the equivalent of two weeks) of paid sick leave to employees for Coronavirus/COVID-19 issues."

Jackson Lewis P.C.

House Passes COVID-19 Legislation to Provide Paid Leave to Employees During Outbreak

"Keep in mind this is simply the House version of the bill. The U.S. Senate is expected to take up this bill as early as Monday, and it's possible -- indeed, even likely -- that the final version will look different ... With respect to paid leave, there are TWO components of the legislation: [1] The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act; and [2] The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act."

FMLA Insights

Employee Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act: What Employers Need to Know

"Among its many components, the Bill creates three new components of federal leave for employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees and governmental employers in response to the Coronavirus: [1] Up to 14 days of additional Paid Sick Leave for the coronavirus emergency (Temporary Paid Sick Leave); [2] Additional Family and Medical Leave protections during the coronavirus emergency; and [3] A reimbursement mechanism through a tax credit."

Michael Best

House Passes COVID-19 Response Legislation Including Numerous Paid Leave, Unemployment Provisions

"It is unclear whether the Senate will approve the House bill as passed, reject it, or make modifications to it, which the House would then have to re-approve.... [T]he House has already indicated its intent to take up a 'technical corrections' bill with respect to H.R. 6201 shortly."

Littler

COVID-19 and Changing Dependent Care Assistance Plan Elections

"School closure itself does not squarely fit within the existing regulatory categories of changes in status. The closest analogy might be a change from one child care provider to another which results in a cost change.... [P]arent working schedule changes ... is a permitted basis to change their salary deferral to reduce the amount set aside for dependent care."

E is for ERISA

Managing Your Prescription Drugs During the COVID-19 Pandemic

"Most states have issued emergency health declarations as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic. Most of these declarations require third-party payors (health plans, HMOs, etc.) to reimburse pharmacies for early prescription refills ... Even if you are healthy now, not under a quarantine, and all your health care providers are open, you should consider getting a refill of your maintenance medications now."

Akerman

The Importance of Telehealth in Fighting COVID-19

"Of the 235 employers responding [a recent] survey, only 16% said they are 'advertising telehealth or digital health options for non-epidemic issues so employees avoid unnecessary care in hospitals.' This seems like a missed opportunity to educate employees about existing telehealth solutions. Per the CDC, telehealth platforms can prevent patients who can be cared for at home from potentially exposing themselves or others to germs."

Mercer

Telehealth and Telemedicine: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)

18 pages. "This report provides responses to frequently asked questions about telehealth and telemedicine, serving as a quick reference with easy access to information. Where applicable, the report provides the legislative background pertaining to the question." [Report R46239, updated Mar. 12, 2020]

Congressional Research Service [CRS]

Benefits in General

Cybersecurity Concerns for Work-From-Home Policies (PDF)

"Ensuring that appropriate technical and administrative safeguards are in place prior to launching wide-scale work-from-home programs is critical to ensuring the safety of your network and data. [This article outlines] considerations that businesses should take into account when implementing work from home programs."

Jenner & Block

Employee Benefits Questions and Answers Related to COVID-19

"[1] Is an employer health plan required to provide testing for and treatment of COVID-19 without a deductible or at a reduced cost? ... [2] Can an employer amend its high deductible health plan (HDHP) to allow testing for and treatment of COVID-19 without a deductible or with a deductible below the current required minimums?... [3] Can employers allow changes to employee elections under their Code section 125 cafeteria plans to reflect changes in circumstances due to COVID-19? ... [4] Can employees receive a loan or hardship distribution from their 401(k) or other defined-contribution retirement plans on account of expenses related to COViD-19?... [5] Can an employer establish catastrophic leave-sharing or disaster leave-sharing programs to allow employees to assist one another with COVID-19 situations?... [6] If [a governmental] employer extends additional benefits to employees or retirees, is there an issue of 'gift of public funds'?"

Hanson Bridgett LLP

Press Releases

Upcoming Events About Health & Welfare Plans

Mar. 17
Webcast
Free
Getting It Right - Know Your Fiduciary Responsibilities: Retirement and Health Plan Sponsors - Day 3
Employee Benefits Security Administration [EBSA], U.S. Department of Labor
Mar. 18
Webcast
Creating Effective Benefit Communications that Improve Engagement and Impact Employee Health
Midwest Business Group on Health
Mar. 19
Webcast
COVID-19 and HIPAA, HRA and HSA Workplace Developments: New Challenges and Opportunities for Plan Sponsors and Their Advisers
Worldwide Employee Benefits Network [WEB] - New York Chapter
Mar. 19
Webcast
Free
Is Your Out-Of-Network Savings Solution Out of Date?
Zelis

Most Popular Items in the Previous Issue

Text of CMS FAQs on Essential Health Benefit Coverage and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) (PDF)
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services [CMS], U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS]

Coronavirus Issues for Employee Benefit Plans
Thompson Hine, via Bloomberg Law

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Lois Baker, J.D., President  loisbaker@benefitslink.com
David Rhett Baker, J.D., Editor and Publisher  davebaker@benefitslink.com
Holly Horton, Business Manager  hollyhorton@benefitslink.com

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BenefitsLink Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter, ISSN no. 1536-9595. Copyright 2020 BenefitsLink.com, Inc. All materials contained in this newsletter are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of BenefitsLink.com, Inc., or in the case of third party materials, the owner of those materials. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notices from copies of the content.

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