| Mar 26 2020

COVID-19 Stimulus Package – Employee Benefit Provisions to Watch

Stephanie Henkenius
Principal, Mercer’s Center for Health Innovation and the US Healthcare Reform team

Late Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed a coronavirus stimulus package that includes the much-anticipated cash assistance the government will send to individual Americans. As with most financial packages, the bill includes a grab bag of provisions. Check out these articles from Politico and The Hill for an overview.

As I’m drafting this post, my colleagues in Mercer’s Law & Policy group are working on a GRIST article that outlines the bill’s provisions related to employee benefits. Once the bill passes the House and is signed by the President, you’ll find their GRIST on our Law & Policy page. In the meantime, here’s a list of some of the provisions we’re following:

  • No cost-sharing telemedicine services for all reasons, not just COVID-19 screening. This coverage would not interfere with an individual’s ability to make or receive HSA contributions.
  • Allows use of HSA, FSA or HRA funds to purchase over-the-counter drugs without a prescription.
  • Expands the list of COVID-19 tests that must be covered with no cost-sharing, preserves network agreements with respect to pricing of those tests and addresses pricing when network agreements are not in place. 
  • Mandates coverage of COVID-19 preventive services -- those rated an “A” or “B” service by the US Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) via the ACA preventive services provision.

There were some notable items not included in Phase 3:

  • Does NOT mandate group health plans to provide coverage for COVID-19 treatment without participant cost-sharing.
  • Does NOT include federal COBRA subsidies.
  • Does NOT expand the emergency paid sick leave or expanded FMLA leave mandates to employers with 500 or more employees.
  • Does NOT include surprise medical billing provisions.

But stay tuned, because we could see these provisions in a future stimulus package. And, don’t forget to watch our Law & Policy page for the full update.

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