As Congress considers another round of legislation in response to the coronavirus pandemic, employer groups are laying out their health policy priorities to lawmakers. In a recent letter to House and Senate leaders, large employer groups joined with more than 30 other organizations in offering recommendations to support employers “central role” in ensuring access to "high quality, affordable healthcare" during the pandemic.
The American Benefits Council, the ERISA Industry Committee, the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, and the Pacific Business Group on Health are the four main employer groups behind the letter, which outlines the following specific recommendations:
In a statement to news media supporting the letter, American Benefits Council President James Klein said, “Now is not the time to debate a radically new health system. The fastest way to ensure continuation of vital health coverage and peace of mind is to strengthen employer-provided health coverage that serves 178 million Americans. That means enabling workers to maintain coverage even if they have lost their job and protecting them against surprise billing.”
The path forward for additional coronavirus relief legislation is uncertain. The Democrat-controlled House approved the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (HR 6800) on May 15. At this time, neither the Republican-led Senate nor the White House have signaled a timeline for further negotiations.
The HEROES Act addresses some of the employer recommendations in the letter, including a 100% subsidy of health plan premiums for terminated or furloughed workers enrolled in COBRA, from March 2020 through January 2021. The legislation also prohibits medical providers receiving government financial aid from balance billing patients for COVID-19-related testing and treatment, and creates a government program to reimburse employer health plans — including self-insured plans — for certain COVID-19-related costs for plan years 2020 and 2021.