By now you’re likely working around the clock to field employee questions about the coronavirus (COVID-19). Perhaps you’ve outlined preventive measures, recommended alternative work arrangements, and modified travel policies.
Don’t forget to address your benefit plans. Consider sharing these facts with employees about how they can leverage their benefits during this unique situation:
- Coronavirus coverage. Reassure employees that their health plan has them covered! It was announced March 11, that most major US health insurance companies (including BCBSM) have agreed to waive copays for testing and extend coverage for coronavirus treatment under most benefit plans. The insurers also indicated there would not be surprise billing for costs associated with coronavirus. In addition, the IRS issued Notice 2020-15, which provides that a high deductible health plan (HDHP) can pay for testing and treatment of the coronavirus without imposing a deductible. Medicare and Medicaid also will cover coronavirus testing and treatment.
- Promote telemedicine. The White House also announced that major health insurance companies agreed to cover telemedicine services, which allow patients to be treated virtually without traveling to a hospital or doctor’s office. Encourage employees to use telemedicine to access board-certified providers from the comfort and safety of their own home, reducing the risk of exposure to other sick individuals.
- Promote mail-order prescription drug program. To avoid exposure from visiting the local pharmacy and to help ensure employees get the medications they need in case of quarantine or illness, reiterate your mail-order feature, if applicable. Check with your PBM on any new policies they may have put in place specific to coronavirus. For example, CVS/Caremark is waiving early refill limits on 30-day prescriptions for maintenance medications at any in-network pharmacy, and they will be waiving charges for home delivery of all prescription medications.
- Reiterate paid time off benefits. Provide guidance about work-at-home expectations when healthy, as well as expectations for the use of paid leave if an employee becomes sick. Ensure your paid time off/sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies. For example, does your company currently have a waiting period to use paid leave benefits or does it have rules against negative leave balances? Convey how pay will be handled for absences of non-exempt personnel or others who are not able to work remotely.
- Examine leave benefits, including FMLA. Consider whether to modify or provide flexibility or waivers with disability and workers’ compensation policies. Be aware that if an employee is diagnosed with coronavirus or is required to care for an eligible family member with the virus, it does constitute a serious health condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Once diagnosed, an otherwise eligible employee would be entitled to FMLA leave as certified by the employee’s (or the family member’s) health care provider.
- Support mental health through EAP. The coronavirus outbreak doesn’t just affect physical health. It can trigger increased anxiety. As coronavirus news spreads, the sensationalized stories will amp up angst, uncertainty and panic. The stock market has responded with a downturn, and many are unsure whether to travel or attend social gatherings. Don’t underestimate the debilitating emotional impact of the outbreak. Employees are not performing their best if they’re dealing with feelings of confusion, isolation, or fears of being quarantined. The most helpful thing you can do is direct them to resources to help them deal with those feelings and build their resilience. Now is the time to reiterate your Employee Assistance Program benefits.
Need assistance? Know that you can lean on us to support your efforts as you help your employees navigate this crisis. Contact us today for more ideas and tips on how to help educate employees and maximize their benefits.
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