There has been so much information swirling around for small business owners to sift through regarding the novel CoronaVirus. We are getting a lot of questions from our clients about benefits plans right now: how can I continue to pay this premium when I have furloughed my employees? Are there new benefits being added to the plans? What if I have employees who waived coverage previously – but now really need it?
Of course, all of these answers vary by carrier, so you must speak with your broker or carrier before you can consider any of these suggestions below as confirmed for your group.
Below are some things we have seen multiple carriers offer for small companies. Again, use these as ideas, then call your carrier or broker to confirm which solutions are right for your group.
Special Enrollment Opportunity
Due to COVID-19, carriers have opened special enrollment opportunities (SEO) for both small and large employers to ensure their employees have access to healthcare that have previously waived or declined coverage. Some carriers are also offering a one time “mid-plan year” plan change to downgrade their plan offerings. The enrollment is offered for a limited time and is based on each carriers’ guidelines.
Premium Payment Grace Periods & Extensions
For groups struggling to meet monthly payments, some carriers are offering (on a case-by-case basis) payment plans and extended grace periods for payments. Employers may also have the option to adjust their billing statement to pay for only those employees still covered under the plan, referred to as paying “true premiums.”
Employee Reduction of Hours & Furloughs and Rehiring Rules
Some carriers are allowing employees that would otherwise have lost eligibility to remain on the plan as long as premiums are received. This scenario does not apply to permanently terminated employees.
Temporarily, employers can waive the new hire waiting period when an employee is rehired. The rehire time varies by carrier.
Due to the threat of COVID-19, some carriers have enhanced their benefits to help members treat the virus.
- Offering screening and diagnostic testing with no cost-sharing associated with COVID-19.
- Waiving member cost-share treatment for COVID-19.
- No-cost telemedicine benefits.
- Telehealth services offer a way to visit with health care providers using your phone, computer, tablet or mobile device, helping you connect with providers in the safety and comfort of your home. These services allow for faster support and help reduce exposure to COVID-19.
Mental Health Services
The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused fear and anxiety to many people. To help manage stress, many carriers are offering free access to emotional support and mental health resources. For additional resources for mental health, please see our blog post dedicated to mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak.