ICYMI: Tips for Managing the Impact of COVID-19

If you missed the Mercer COVID-19 webinar this week, I thought I would share some useful takeaways.   

Dr. Lorna Freidman gave an update on the spread of the virus and discussed what we should be doing:

  • Leading physicians in Italy published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine last week highlighting the urgent need for those of us in the US to treat more patients at home. Employers have a role in supporting this strategy by maximizing all health maintenance options including expanded access to maintenance medication, telemedicine and other self-care or care-at-home options.

  • COVID-19 testing currently remains limited. The CDC itself, as well as other digital health and academic centers have quickly deployed online symptom checkers to screen patients for signs of COVID-19. The hope is that by using a chat bot powered by artificial intelligence, we can quickly deliver sound health advice for people, while they are safely in their homes.

Sunit Patel, Mercer’s Chief Actuary, discussed the impact of COVID-19 on health care costs:

  • At this time, there are a large number of uncertainties. So, reviewing various scenarios is going to be essential along with monitoring experience broadly and company specific claims experience. 

  • Three things to consider for adjustments to 2020 projections: (1) cost for individuals who receive a test, (2) treatment for those who test positive, and (3) an elective services adjustment to reflect less non-COVID-19 related medical services (because we are seeing a reduction in non-critical elective services).  Estimates for the financial impact of COVID-19 will continually need a refresh with updated information.

  • The range of outcomes is large today, driven at the low end by foregone elective services, and at the high end, by supply constraints. 

Mary Ann Sardone, Mercer’s US Talent Solutions Leader covered trends in employment and compensation practices:

  • Mercer’s most recent survey highlights employer focus on preserving jobs and compensation.

  • Approximately 60% of respondents are maintaining full pay for both hourly and salaried employees, and only about one in ten companies are asking employees to take unpaid leave at this point. Employers that are not providing paid leave are predominantly in the retail and hospitality sector where about three in ten organizations are not providing paid leave now.

  • Be ready to take action on short-term approaches, especially in highly impacted industries.

Liana Magner, US Defined Contribution and Financial Wellness Leader discussed support for defined contribution plan participants:

  • The coronavirus has led to increased market volatility and relatively steep declines year to date, which impacts businesses as well as defined contribution plans with repercussions that are still largely unknown.

  • Understanding what is best for your participants, while balancing business needs, may require that difficult decisions be made. While the time horizon to retirement for some of the participants in your population may be short, the majority will have a longer period to recover before they retire and draw down assets. So one of the most important things to continue to do at this time is to manage to your long-term strategy that you've set for your defined contribution plan. 

  • As with all aspects of the response to this virus, be sure to communicate clearly and regularly with employees.

Mark your calendar to join us on Thursday at Noon EST for our next webinar. The invite will posted on our COVID-19 page early next week.

Tracy Watts
by Tracy Watts

Senior Partner, National Leader for U.S. Health Policy

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