COVID-19 FAQs & Resources
Updated March 18, 2020
Updated March 18, 2020
In an effort to provide employer assistance, guidance, and direction, Michigan Planners has compiled important and relevant information from available resources, including the government, carriers, Human Resources consultants, legal firms, and other credible third parties. This reference page is intended to serve as a guide and will be updated as information becomes available and as reasonably possible. Please note that due to the nature of the ever-changing events, it is possible that the information you read today may be outdated tomorrow. We will do our best to maintain a current and accurate reference page.
Everyone at Michigan Planners is available to offer up support in order to properly service you, your management team, your employees, and their family members! For questions that may not be represented within this page, or for additional comments, please contact your customer relationship manager.
Information is divided into the following 4 sections: 1) Compliance 2) Employee Benefits 3) Human Resources and 4) Risk and Safety Management with links to outside resources for additional guidance. Because some of the links represent outside information, it is possible that a link may become outdated or be relocated; thus, if a link becomes broken, please notify Laura Van Houtte at Lvanhoutte@miplanners.com. Additionally, we intend to continuously update this page, so if you have a question or new information you would like to share, please contact us at 800.674.9235.
Thank you for your patience and questions!
Coronavirus Supplemental Passes the House (Source: Clark Hill)
Courts, Your Lawsuit and the Impact of COVID-19 (Source: Clark Hill)
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) (Source: Clark Hill)
How will my medical / prescription expenses concerning COVID-19 be covered by the insurance companies?
Most of the carriers, third party (TPAs), and pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) are releasing fact sheets as information is released. Please click on the above carrier links for the actual documents from the carriers concerning covered services.
For answers we have received directly to our office from the companies and not contained within a document, we will post the answers below.
What expenses concerning COVID-19 are HSA eligible?
According to Health Equity, Notice 2020-15 provides that, until further notice or further guidance is issued, a health plan that otherwise satisfies the requirements of an HDHP will not fail to be an HDHP merely because the health plan provides health benefits associated with testing for and treatment of COVID-19 before the minimum statutory HDHP deductible is met. This includes any testing or treatment provided without cost-sharing, including telemedicine visits related to COVID-19.
Other expenses to note: office visits, lab tests, medications, urgent care visits, emergency room visits, hospitalization or isolation facility charges could be paid by insurance below the deductible without fear of HSA consequences, if directly related to COVID-19. Of course, all qualified medical expenses may be paid from an HSA.
Keep in mind that any over-the-counter medicine may be purchased with funds from an HSA, healthcare flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), if prescribed by a doctor.
It is welcome relief that Notice 2020-15 provides the flexibility needed at this critical time. An individual covered by the HDHP will not be disqualified from being an eligible individual who may make tax-favored contributions to an HSA if COVID-19 strikes.
What happens to an employee’s benefits while the employee is absent from work and can’t work remotely?
This will depend in part on the reason for the absence and your leave policies. If the employee is actually sick, or caring for a family member who is sick, the absence may be protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), in which case your company must allow the employee’s health benefits to continue, and you can also continue other benefits for the employee.
But if the employee is not actually sick or caring for a sick family member, but instead is self-quarantining (and not able to work remotely) because of exposure to the virus, the absence may not qualify as an FMLA leave (though HR 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, currently pending in Congress, may change that). If the leave is not protected under the FMLA, you will need to look at your leave policies and your plan documents to see what they say about continuation of benefits during a non-FMLA leave. If the leave is paid, many employers will continue benefits as though the employee were actively at work; but if the leave is unpaid, benefits may end immediately or at the end of the month.
Sometimes, plan documents do not have an express provision dealing with this issue, in which case you may need to look back at past practices for other employees who have been on a non-FMLA leave. If your workforce is collectively bargained, the collective bargaining agreement might also address this issue.
If you are instructing employees to self-quarantine, and the employee can’t work remotely, then you should consider whether your benefit continuation practices need to change. If you have insured benefits, the insurer will need to agree to any changes. If you have any self-insured benefits, you have more flexibility, but you will want to make sure that your third-party administrator can administrate any changes you plan to implement and that your stop-loss carrier will provide coverage. Any changes need to be formally adopted as a plan amendment. (Source: Warner Norcross + Judd)
What happens to benefits if I have to lay off employees because of a slow-down in the economy?
This will depend on what your plan documents say about benefits during lay-off periods. Many plans will end benefits during a layoff, which means that employees who wish to continue health coverage during the layoff must elect COBRA. Some plans, however, continue benefits during temporary lay-off periods, which might be defined as periods expected to last no longer than one or two months. If your workforce is collectively bargained, the collective bargaining agreement might also address this issue.
If benefits end during a layoff, you might consider whether to make changes in the plan (which may require discussions with insurance companies, third-party administrators and stop-loss carriers). Alternatively, you might consider temporary assistance with COBRA premiums. Either approach requires documentation (a plan amendment, or a clear policy as to how long and under which circumstances the employer will assist with COBRA premiums). (Source: Warner Norcross + Judd)
Is quarantine a payable benefit?
Please refer to each specific carrier as it relates to the quarantine benefit and whether or not a rider is available or if quarantine is covered as part of the standard language within the contract.
Cybercriminals Are Taking Advantage of COVID-19: Tips to Reduce Risk (Source: Clark Hill)
Furlough Letter (Source: ThinkHR)
Michigan Temporarily Extends Unemployment Benefits for Workers Affected by COVID-19 (Source: Clark Hill)
COVID-19 Declared a Pandemic and New Travel Restrictions Announced: What Employers Need to Know Now (Source: James Reid, Dinsmore)
Sample Work From Home policy (Source: ASE)
1. An employee reports to work with a bad cough and/or fever. What questions can HR or a manager ask of this employee?
Managers can accidentally violate the Americans with Disabilities Act if the query delves into the worker’s medical history. The EEOC has posted a notice detailing what employers should know. The federal agency advised that ADA and Rehabilitation Act rules continue to apply, but they do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions made by the CDC about steps employers should be taking.
The EEOC references its guidance for pandemic flu situations for how to handle the current situation with Coronavirus. ADA-covered employers may ask the employees if they are experiencing influenza-like symptoms, such as fever or chills and a cough or sore throat. However, all information gathered about an employee illness must be maintained as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.
“There is that line there with the ADA as to the types of questions you can ask,” Nathan Schacht of Baker Hostetler said. “You can certainly ask someone how they’re feeling and see what their response is to that. But employers need to be very careful to not cross the line and ask those questions that could get into the disability zone.” (Source: ASE)
2. Can HR send an employee home who comes to work sick?
Yes. The CDC states that employees who become ill with symptoms of illness at work during a pandemic should leave the workplace. According to the EEOC, advising such workers to go home is not a disability-related action if the illness is akin to seasonal influenza or the 2009 spring/summer H1N1 virus, etc. Additionally, the action would be permitted under the ADA if the illness were serious enough to pose a direct threat to both the employee or other employees. (Source: ASE)
3. A public emergency is declared, and work is canceled as a result. Do workers have to be paid?
It depends. One consideration for employers if exempt or non-exempt employees can’t physically make it to their usual workplace is whether they can telecommute, and therefore must be paid the same as if they were physically in the office. But the issue becomes more complicated if workers are stuck at home with no work being performed.
If employees are non-exempt, they generally are only paid for time worked. Therefore, if they are not working, they do not have to be paid. Employers could require, similar to a shutdown, that employees use PTO during this time. Yet, employers need to understand that the Michigan Paid Sick Leave may be applicable as well because the time off is due to a health scare.
For exempt employees, they do not have to be paid if the business is closed for five business days or longer. Michigan Paid Sick Leave may also come into play since this is a health emergency. However, if they work one day in a week and there is no telecommuting options possible, they will have to be paid for the full week. In addition, if they telecommute or work using their phones (emails or taking calls) they will have to be paid. (Source: ASE)
ASE Managing a Virtual Workforce, April 2nd