March 27, 2020
Good Afternoon Everyone,
Our team continues to research and stay informed on the latest changes, though it seems news on all fronts is released faster than we are able to collect and disseminate. In our final update for the week, we want to bring your attention to the most relevant changes concerning your benefit programs and legislation. This update includes the most recent updates for carrier billing and eligibility relief, FFCRA Workplace Posters and FAQs, COVID-19 changes to State Paid Family and Medical Leave Laws, and information concerning the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES).
Some carriers have made adjustments to their original guidance concerning billing and eligibility relief. Please refer to the attached chart for the most up to date guidance from carriers. After much anticipation, CareFirst has finally released its response to COVID-19. CareFirst has relaxed its eligibility guidelines to cover employees who have been furloughed or laid-off as long as premiums continue to be paid. New hire and re-hire waiting periods have been waived. Employees can enroll or re-enroll on a date determined by the group. Any employee or dependent who previously waived coverage is now able to join at this time. In regards to premium relief, CareFirst is offering payment deferments of up to two months with no interest or penalty. Deferred premium needs to be satisfied over time through scheduled periodic payments. This deferment is not automatic and requests must be made to be considered. If you wish to take advantage of CareFirst?s or any other carriers? financial relief offerings, please contact your EBS Client Manager as soon as possible so that we may help facilitate this arrangement with the carrier on your behalf.
FFCRA workplace posters were also recently published which require applicable employers to post them in a conspicuous place on premises. Given certain state mandated business closures, this requirement can be satisfied by emailing or direct mailing this notice to employees or by posting this notice on an employee information internal or external website. For your convenience, the links to the posters are below.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) continues to be at the forefront of discussions among the industry and Federal leaders. What has largely been overlooked are the changes states have made to their existing paid family and medical leave laws in response to COVID-19. There are a total of nine states that have passed State Paid Family and Medical Leave laws. It?s important to note, the states have not used same the employer size limits enacted within the FFCRA for paid leave. Please refer to the corresponding sites below for information on the states? PFML benefits for COVID-19:
- California https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/
- New York https://paidfamilyleave.ny.gov/COVID19
- Washington https://paidleave.wa.gov/coronavirus/
- District of Columbia (BENEFITS DON'T START UNTIL JULY 2020)
- Massachusetts (BENEFITS DON'T START UNTIL 2021)
- Connecticut (BENEFITS DON'T START UNTIL 2022)
- Oregon (BENEFITS DON'T START UNTIL 2023)
The Senate and House have both passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). It?s expected to be signed by the President immediately. The bill addresses economic impacts of, and otherwise responds to, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. The bill authorizes emergency loans to distressed businesses, including air carriers, and suspends certain aviation excise taxes.
With respect to small businesses, the bill:
- establishes, and provides funding for, forgivable bridge loans; and
- provides additional funding for grants and technical assistance.
The bill also provides funding for $1,200 tax rebates to individuals, with additional $500 payments per qualifying child. The rebate begins phasing out when incomes exceed $75,000 (or $150,000 for joint filers).
The bill establishes limits on requirements for employers to provide paid leave.
With respect to taxes, the bill:
- establishes special rules for certain tax-favored withdrawals from retirement plans;
- delays due dates for employer payroll taxes and estimated tax payments for corporations; and
- revises other provisions, including those related to losses, charitable deductions, and business interest.
With respect to health care, the bill:
- provides additional funding for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19;
- limits liability for volunteer health care professionals;
- prioritizes Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review of certain drugs;
- allows emergency use of certain diagnostic tests that are not approved by the FDA;
- expands health-insurance coverage for diagnostic testing and requires coverage for preventative services and vaccines;
- revises other provisions, including those regarding the medical supply chain, the national stockpile, the healt care workforce, the Healthy Start program, telehealth services, nutrition services, Medicare, and Medicaid.
With respect to education, the bill:
- temporarily suspends payments for federal student loans; and
- otherwise revises provisions related to campus-based aid, supplemental educational-opportunity grants, federal work-study, subsidized loans, Pell grants, and foreign institutions.
- The bill also authorizes the Department of the Treasury to temporarily guarantee money-market funds.
Lastly, you may have noticed that addressing member-level benefits related to COVID-19 has largely been absent from our emails. Our intention with our communication to you is to focus on matters that directly impact decisions you are making on a day to day basis related to your operations and benefits administration. Rest assured that our Client Care Team has been addressing employees? individual concerns about testing, claims processing, and other resources to help them understand their benefits in light of our health climate. Our service team members continue to adhere and uphold HIPAA privacy standards by keeping any employee health concerns with utmost confidentiality, whether they pertain to confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 or any other conditions. Our partners at ThinkHR released an FAQ this week that provides general guidance on handling workplace health, employee management, and business operations. You can lean on ThinkHR?s team of trusted HR-advisors to provide any additional guidance you may need.
As always, wishing you health and sanity,
The EBS Team
March 25, 2020
Good Afternoon Everyone,
Since the distribution of our previous email, new information released daily from carriers and Federal and State governments has been rapidly changing and at times overwhelming. To provide you more targeted guidance, we have sifted through this information and have compiled what we believe is most relevant to you and your business at this time. This update includes information on premium relief and relaxed eligibility requirements as well as new guidance from the IRS and DOL on the First Families Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). We have also listed business and employee resources from neighboring state governments to help address some of your most pressing concerns.
Many carriers understand the financial hardships that businesses are facing in light of the coronavirus pandemic and are offering an extension of premium billing grace periods. Additionally, carriers are offering leniencies around eligibility rules during this time so that employees who may have otherwise been terminated from coverage, due to coronavirus-related reasons such as layoffs, furloughs, and reduction of hours, may continue to be covered during this critical time of health emergencies. We have taken the time to contact most major carriers. Some carriers have released official statements. Others have communicated with us through our designated representatives. A few have not supplied their response in either format and have remained mute. The attached chart details the guidelines carriers have released for billing and eligibility relief. Bear in mind that this information may change at any time and state mandates may supersede carriers? decisions on premium relief and changes to eligibility rules.
Since the passing of FFCRA, the IRS has issued additional guidance as to how employers are able to take advantage of the tax credits based on COVID-19 related paid leave that is provided to employees. The link below outlines the paid leave benefits under the Act and the tax credits for reimbursement. While we are unable to provide tax advice, we are continually monitoring for new information and guidance that may benefit you. We recommend that you seek the advice of legal counsel and/or tax professional for any tax specific questions. Separately, the DOL has released further guidance including a fact sheet for employers and employees, and FAQs. In this release, the DOL addresses critical questions, such as how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage; how small businesses can obtain an exemption; how to count hours for part-time employees; and how to calculate the wages employees are entitled to under this law. Lastly, FFCRA leave, which was initially believed to be effective April 2nd, is now in effect as of April 1st.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Finally, we have listed resources below from surrounding states for businesses and employees affected by COVID-19. Included in the links below is:
- Each state?s response to COVID-19 including health recommendations, operating statuses, a multitude of resources for affected individuals, and FAQs
- Business resources such as SBA Disaster Loans, grants, other financial and tax relief
- Employer and employee information related to unemployment benefits and other recovery funds
If you are a multi-state employer with employees located in other areas, please check the respective state's pages for more information.
State Resources for Individuals, Businesses, and Employees:
District of Columbia
As always, please do not hesitate to contact our team should you have any other questions or concerns.
March 20, 2020
As we end the first week of social distancing and as more business operations are affected by COVID-19, we want to help you navigate through these uncertain times by providing resources to keep you and your organization up to date on the latest announcements and information. We have received numerous inquiries relating to impacts on employee benefits, among other challenges and concerns. We are closely monitoring information from Federal and local governments and awaiting guidance from insurance carriers relating to possible interim relief for employers.
As it stands today, normal eligibility and billing rules apply. Employees who experience a furlough, layoff, or reduction in hours due to the loss of production caused by COVID-19 and cease to be eligible for benefits are subject to normal termination rules according to your policy contract. Employees are entitled to enroll in continuation of coverage, either through State Continuation or COBRA depending on your employer size and where applicable. Employers have the option to subsidize premiums for continuation of coverage to help alleviate some of the financial burdens employees face. Please be aware self-funded plans have the ability to change layoff provisions. Most stop-loss carriers are recognizing these changes without approval. Contact your EBS Client Manager if you would like to visit this provision and available options.
Carriers have created dedicated websites related to COVID-19 to help members and employers stay up to date on the latest news and developments, which we have listed below. If you are a self-funded employer, new legislation requires that your plans cover testing and visits related to testing at no charge to the member. Your self-funded plan administrator is paying claims according to this legislation.
Additionally, our current clients have complimentary access to a multitude of other resources through ThinkHR. If you currently do not have a ThinkHR login, please contact our team so you can be registered as a user.
If our team can be of further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Health Insurance Carrier Links for Messages and Resources:
ThinkHR Recorded Webinar: COVID-19 HR Guidance and Best Practices:
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (All Employers Under 500 Employees):
- SunLife Webinar on Wednesday, March 25th at 2:00PM ET
- Guardian Webinar on Wednesday, March 25th at 12:00PM
As employee benefits brokers, our core competency is to provide you access to medical, dental, vision, life, disability, and other insurance products. We help you navigate employee benefits through automated technologies that streamline and automate the process, such as integrated payroll, enrollment platforms, benefits administration, and Human Resource Information Systems. We keep you out of the penalty zone by advising you and providing solutions to meet your ERISA and Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements, including reporting and distributing notices. We protect your bottom line by providing financially-focused and strategic planning, cost containment strategies, and risk management. We back all of this up with incredible customer service that is with you every step of the way. We are Employee Benefit Services. We are easier, better, smarter.