Group Health Plans Must Cover COVID-19 Testing for Asymptomatic People

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced in late February that private group health plans cannot deny coverage or impose cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing, regardless of whether or not the patient is experiencing symptoms or has been exposed to someone with the disease. The CMS said it had issued the new guidance to make it easier for people to get tested with no out-of-pocket costs if they are planning to visit family members or take a flight, for example. Up until now, some health plans have not covered testing if a person is not experiencing symptoms or has not…
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IRS Lets Employers Give Workers a Break on FSA Contributions, Health Plan Rules

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

A number of changes in recent months have given employees extra benefits and flexibility when it comes to utilizing Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). The newly signed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 raised FSA contribution limits and the COVID relief bill signed in late 2020 gave employees additional flexibility in the use of funds and making election changes. The IRS recently released additional guidance, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, that allows employees to make changes to their health plans outside of the traditional open enrollment period. The COVID relief bill signed into law at…
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Insurers Expected COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Surge; It Never Came

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

The number of COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims submit to carriers has not been as widespread as insurers and ratings agencies around the country had predicted when the pandemic first started in early 2020. On top of that, a large chunk of COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims filed by workers nationwide have been rejected, with insurers often citing lack of proof that the illness was contracted in the workplace. These two factors have lead to a much lower surge of claim payouts than expected. The insurance industry was bracing for a deluge of workers’ comp claims when the seriousness of the pandemic…
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Employment-Related Lawsuits Explode during Pandemic

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow, so does the number of employment-related lawsuits filed by workers across the country against their employers. The pandemic laid the groundwork for new local, state and federal laws and regulations governing a number of workplace issues like workplace safety, family and medical leave and remote work. And it created new challenges for employers who were forced to close operations, lay off and furlough workers and organize new work arrangements. Most common employment-related lawsuits The surge resulted in a record number of COVID-19-related class-action lawsuits, the majority of them concerning disputes over:…
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Leveraging HSAs to Help Your Staff Manage Health Care Costs

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

With the COVID-19 pandemic weighing on employers and employees alike, businesses can help their staff by leveraging health savings accounts to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. With increased flexibility from recent changes, more employees may see benefit from using an HSA. In 2020 congress untethered HSAs and flexible spending accounts by changing the rules that prohibited account holders from using the funds in their accounts for over-the-counter medicines and other non-prescription health products and services. That change, which is permanent, was done through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. HSAs are a great option to help employees save…
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Commissioner Rejects COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Surcharge

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

When California’s insurance commissioner in December ordered that the workers’ compensation benchmark rate for this year be cut 4.6% on average, he also rejected a recommendation that all policies be subject to a COVID-19 workers comp surcharge. When the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau made its rate filing for 2021, it also recommended that all policies in the state be subject to a COVID-19 workers comp surcharge that ranged from 1 cent per $100 of payroll for the least risky professions to 26 cents per $100 of payroll for the riskiest (such as health care workers). The Rating Bureau had…
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COVID-19 Relief Bill Extends Unemployment Benefits, PPP and More

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

The $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, passed by Congress and signed into law on Dec. 27, includes a number of provisions that affect employers and their workers in terms of paid sick leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act provisions. The legislation also boosts unemployment benefits to out-of-work Americans, as well as reopening and expanding the Paycheck Protection Program that was introduced in March as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. What’s Inside the new COVID-19 Relief Bill? Paid sick leave and family medical leave The new law has not extended the obligation for…
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Law Imposes New COVID-19 Reporting Requirements

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California employers already have a lot to digest after Cal/OSHA issued sweeping new safety regulations in November that include new COVID-19 reporting requirements, among other changes. Now they face additional requirements starting Jan. 1, 2021, thanks to a new law. AB 685 expands Cal/OSHA’s authority to issue stop-work orders to workplaces it deems a COVID-19 “imminent hazard.” It also requires employers to send notices to a number of parties (state agencies, local authorities, employees, contractors, and more) if they have coronavirus infections in any of their facilities. The law, which comes into effect on January 1, covers a lot of…
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California’s COVID-19 Tracking Requirement Challenges Employers

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SB 1159, signed into law in September, requires that when a California employer “knows or reasonably should know” that an employee has tested positive for coronavirus, it must report that positive case to its workers’ compensation carrier within three business days along with other COVID-19 tracking requirements. There is a lot of ground to cover in these reports and the legislation was passed without much publicity, so many employers may not even know about their obligations. And that could cost them: the fine for non-compliance is $10,000 per incident. The law goes further than merely reporting a positive case: The…
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How Will COVID-19 Change Health Insurance

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

With talks of a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, many are asking about the long term effects of the pandemic, like how will COVID-19 change health insurance. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted businesses and other organizations in multiple ways. Lost revenue and the overnight change to remote workforces, among other things, have caused significant changes to operations and finances. A new report shows that there will be long-term effects on employee benefit programs as well. Health insurers are forecasting continued cost increases that dwarf general inflation rates, according to the report by Mercer Marsh Benefits. Most expect 2021 medical cost inflation…
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