Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter

April 29, 2020

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Continuing Health Coverage During Leave, Furlough, or Temporary Layoff
RECORDED
Epstein Becker & Green

Managing ERISA Fiduciary Responsibilities in the Time of COVID-19
RECORDED
Epstein Becker & Green

CARES Act Healthcare Relief Funds - Avoiding Compliance Pitfalls
April 30, 2020 WEBCAST
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP

Telehealth Before and After COVID-19
May 6, 2020 WEBCAST
Brookings Institution

HSA Investment
May 6, 2020 WEBCAST
EBRI [Employee Benefit Research Institute]

COVID-19 - Legislative and Regulatory Update on Issues Impacting Health Plans
May 7, 2020 WEBCAST
Groom Law Group

What Employers Need to Know: Implementing New Paid Sick Leave & FMLA Requirements of the COVID-19 Response Act
May 15, 2020 WEBCAST
Clear Law Institute

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View Coronavirus (COVID-19) News and Resources

[Guidance Overview]

Helping Employees During COVID-19: Section 139 Tax-Free Reimbursements

"Qualified disaster relief payments are attractive to employers because they are both excludable from employees' incomes and deductible by the employer ... What Is a Qualified Disaster Relief Payment? ... What type of expenses are covered? ... What expenses are not covered? ... How can an employer make the payments? ... Are there any substantiation requirements? ... How does an employer offer these benefits? ... For how long can an employer make the payments?"

Groom Law Group

[Guidance Overview]

DOL Updates Emergency Leave Q&As under the FFCRA

"The DOL has continued to update its list of [Q&As] regarding the FFCRA.... [1] Calculating EPSL for employees with irregular hours.... [2] Calculating Expanded FMLA (E-FMLA) for employees with irregular hours.... [3] Requiring employees to use existing leave."

Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c.

[Guidance Overview]

Colorado Issues Temporary Emergency Rule Requiring Paid Sick Leave

"On April 27, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment expanded the amount of sick leave required to be provided by Colorado employers from four days' full pay to two weeks (up to 80 hours) at 2/3 pay for employees with either flu-like or other respiratory illness symptoms and who is being tested for COVID-19, or those under instructions to quarantine or isolate from either a health care provider or an authorized government official."

Fisher Phillips

[Guidance Overview]

Health Insurance Options for Terminated Employees

"Three potential comprehensive coverage options for terminated employees include [COBRA] continuation coverage, individual health insurance coverage, and Medicaid. An individual's eligibility for these coverage options depends on a number of factors ... This 'In Focus' provides a brief overview of eligibility, benefits, and costs associated with these different health insurance coverage types. It primarily discusses coverage options for terminated employees who can no longer access their former employer-sponsored health insurance." [IF11523 Apr. 28, 2020]

Congressional Research Service [CRS]

[Guidance Overview]

San Francisco's COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Ordinance Takes Effect

"On April 17, 2020, Mayor Breed signed an amended version of the [San Francisco Public Health Emergency Leave Ordinance (PHELO)]. In addition, the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement ... published a workplace poster, detailed guidance for employers in the form of FAQs (updated April 24, 2020) and a complaint form to be used by employees to address violations of the PHELO. The PHELO became effective on April 17, 2020, and will expire on June 17, 2020, or upon the termination of the COVID-19 public health emergency, whichever occurs first. The PHELO addresses the FFCRA's coverage gap by establishing minimum supplemental paid sick leave requirements for private employers with 500 or more employees worldwide, subject to certain limitations applicable to healthcare providers, emergency responders and collectively bargained employees."

Duane Morris LLP

Drop in Healthcare Consumption Accounts for Nearly Half of Drop in U.S. GDP

"Counter intuitively, healthcare was one of the sectors that provided the biggest drag on the economy [during the first quarter of 2020], as hospitals stopped performing lucrative elective procedures in order to focus on dealing with coronavirus patients.... [H]ealthcare accounted for 40 per cent of the fall in consumption."

Financial Times

Deregulation Sparks Dramatic Telehealth Increase During the COVID-19 Response

"Data show that telehealth utilization is increasing because of new flexibilities for the provision of Medicare telehealth services and potentially because of HHS's policy change that allows providers to use popular video platforms to connect with patients. Additionally, the [FFCRA] ... requires group health plans and health insurers to waive cost sharing for COVID-19 testing and any related provider visits to administer such testing, including telehealth visits."

The White House

Employers Use Mental Health Benefits to Battle Coronavirus Stress

"While all demographic groups report increased stress during this time, companies can still tailor their resources to best fit what their workforce is facing. Businesses with working parents or caretakers can provide counseling and tools that specifically address family-related anxiety. Younger staff with student loans as well as those interested in retiring soon may need more personalized financial planning support to face their particular worries. Employees with underlying physical or mental health issues may be struggling to adapt to changes in treatment; telemedicine can help but learning how to cope with these unexpected changes can fill in the gaps."

Grooms Benefit Solutions

The Impact of Single Payer Health Care and Other Public Policy Proposals on Employment-Based Health Benefits (PDF)

12 pages. "There are pros and cons of having an employment-based health benefits system. Furthermore, it is debatable as to whether there is an alternative to the employment-based system, such as single payer health care, that would produce higher quality care, better service and lower price. This article explores these issues in greater detail."

Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, via Benefits Quarterly, published by the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists [ISCEBS]

[Opinion]

Coalition Letter to Congressional Leadership Urging Swift Action to Protect Americans' Health Care Coverage

"Employers need more support -- and workers need to be able to continue their stable, secure coverage. As you consider the next round of legislation to overcome COVID-19, we urge you to ... [1] Provide employers with temporary subsidies to preserve health benefits.... [2] Cover the cost of [COBRA] coverage ... [3] Expand use of [HSAs].... [4] Open a special enrollment period for health insurance marketplaces.... [5] Increase eligibility for federal subsidies for the health insurance marketplaces."

U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Hospital Association, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), and 29 other organizations

[Opinion]

Now is the Time for States to Expand Access to Telemedicine

"The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) is urging the governors of 21 states to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Commission Compact (IMLCC) which would enable their states to expand access to telemedicine during the COVID-19 crisis. The IMLCC is an agreement among 29 states and the District of Columbia that allows for a qualified health care provider to receive a license for each participating state through a streamlined application process."

The ERISA Industry Committee [ERIC]

Benefits in General

[Official Guidance]

Text of EBSA COVID-19 FAQs for Participants and Beneficiaries (PDF)

16 pages; 23 Q&As covering health and retirement plan benefits, including:  [1] If my place of employment temporarily closes because of the COVID-19 outbreak, am I still covered by my employer's group health plan? [2] My employer's place of business is temporarily closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.... Who do I contact to file a claim for benefits, or to obtain replacement identification documents? [3] I think I may be losing my health coverage as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. What can I do to obtain other health coverage? [4] To preserve my right to receive group health coverage under certain health care coverage provisions, like COBRA and special enrollment periods, I have to provide documentation and notices to my plan within a certain timeframe. Are any of these timeframes being extended? [5] Can my employer terminate or reduce my health benefits at any time? [6] Can my retiree health benefits be terminated or changed? [7] Can I get money out of my retirement plan if I need financial assistance now? [8] Are there any downsides to receiving a pre-retirement distribution of my retirement benefits? [9] If my employer faces economic difficulties due to the COVID-19 outbreak, can my employer terminate my retirement plan, and if so, what happens to my benefits? [10] I haven't received a benefit statement from my 401(k) plan. When can I expect to receive it?

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

[Guidance Overview]

Editor's Pick Employee Benefits as Payroll Costs Under the Paycheck Protection Program

"As of the date of this posting, no guidance has been issued by the IRS or the Department of Treasury to further clarify what specific items qualify as payroll costs. In the interim, employers should consider applying a common-sense approach ... by limiting such expenses to payments made in the normal course of the employer's operations."

Haynes and Boone, LLP

Most Popular Items in the Previous Issue

Text of EBSA and IRS Final Regs: Extension of Certain Timeframes for Employee Benefit Plans, Participants, and Beneficiaries Affected by the COVID-19 Outbreak (PDF)
Employee Benefits Security Administration [EBSA], U.S. Department of Labor [DOL]; and Internal Revenue Service [IRS]

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David Rhett Baker, J.D., Editor and Publisher  davebaker@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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