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Covid-19 & Your employee Benefits Program

Kalli Ortega
April 29, 2020

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing an unprecedented volume of questions and concern from employers, employees, and families.  There is no existing employee benefits playbook for the current situation and the information is constantly being updated.  For that reason, I want to share with you some of the topics that my team and I are discussing with clients on a daily basis as well as provide live links to official insurance carrier resource pages so that you have a quick reference guide for the most up to date information. 


Link to Carrier's COVID-19 Resource Page








Delta Dental




Mutual of Omaha


The Standard




High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) & Health Savings Accounts (HSAs):  In IRS Notice 2020-15, the Internal Revenue Service advised that HDHPs can pay for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)-related testing and treatment, without jeopardizing their status. With this release, the IRS states that “This notice provides flexibility to HDHPs to provide health benefits for testing and treatment of COVID-19 without application of a deductible or cost sharing.” and as such, individuals with an HDHP that covers these costs may continue to contribute to their HSA.

Telehealth & Virtual Visit Benefits: Many insurance carriers have expanded the availability of the telehealth/virtual visit benefits within health plans; some are even waiving the cost.  During this “shelter-in-place” order, a virtual visit is the best way (if not ONLY way) to seek quality medical care.  I recommend checking with your current health insurance carrier to see whether your plan(s) cover this benefit and, if so, whether or not the cost has been waived. 


Mental Health & EAP:  This pandemic has many feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  To offer additional assistance, many insurance carriers are offering enhanced EAP services to their clients at little or no cost.  This, again, varies by insurance carrier, so please refer to my carrier resource table for the links, contact your insurance advisor, or you are welcome to contact me directly.


Insurance Policies and Contracts:  There have been many questions coming in about insurance contract parameters and allowances.  We have found that the answers to these topics vary by carrier, as would be expected, but the list below is worth reviewing both internally and with an insurance advisor.


  • Plan Renewals & Open Enrollment:
    • Many insurance carriers are offering “flat” renewals for plans renewing on or after May 1, 2020.  Again, this varies greatly by carrier, but it is definitely worth looking into.  Others are offering 2-year rate locks in addition to their zero increase renewals.


    • Open Enrollment for May 1 – August 1 renewals are being handled through a “passive” online process in most instances.  Consider your open enrollment process and review with your insurance advisor the plan to handle your upcoming open enrollment(s).


  • Eligibility & Special Enrollment Events:  With several nationwide layoffs, RIFs, and furloughs, many employers are receiving requests from their employees about their own coverage eligibility or that of their eligible family members.


    • Requests to add domestic partners, spouses, and eligible adult children to their benefit plans is a common one.  Loss of other coverage is considered a “qualifying event”, but there are some unique situations as well, so it is best to confirm with your insurance carrier.


    • Whether or not employees who had previously been eligible for health insurance but are now working a reduced schedule can remain on the health plan (think PPT/POC/POP members).


  • Billing & Payment:  Some insurance carriers are offering additional grace periods for premium payments across the board or else on a case by case basis.  If you find that you are in need of additional time for submitting your insurance premium payments, I suggest reaching out to you insurance advisor or insurance carrier directly to see what options are available to you.


  • Waiving of Costs for Testing AND Treatment:  There was an initial release that COVID-19 testing would be at no cost to members and now many of the insurance carriers are also addressing the cost of the actual treatment.  The carrier resource pages (shown below) include the positions for each carrier and will continue to update regularly as they release more coverage detail.


Recent Legislation:  The applicability of the recent legislation to public entities and specifically Fire Protection Districts has been among the hottest of topics for my team and our HR Consulting Division.  I absolutely recommend checking in with your District’s attorney for the answer to those questions and, as appropriate, holding those discussions as a conference call with your benefits advisor and workers comp insurance advisor.  There is MUCH overlap in this area and I have found that having all parties together for the discussion is incredibly helpful.  In the meantime, you will find a table of general resources with links to the acts that are in force as of the writing of this article.


The additional resources below may be of interest to you for purposes of running your District, but also as a resource for you, your Trustees, Commissioners, or Members who also manage businesses of their own.

Additional Resources

Information & Links

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Coronavirus Information

Travel Health Information

Pandemic Preparedness

Health Alert Network

World Health Organization (WHO)

Coronavirus Information

Disease Outbreak Information

US Department of Labor (DOL)

Coronavirus Information

Federal Employees Compensation for Coronavirus

For questions and answers regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as it pertains to the Coronavirus, visit:

COVID-19 or Other Public Health Emergencies and the Family and Medical Leave Act Questions and Answers

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Coronavirus Overview for Employers / Workers

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

For questions and answers about Essential Health Benefit Coverage (EBC) as it pertains to the Coronavirus, visit:

FAQs on Essential Health Benefit Coverage and the Coronavirus

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

For information on workplace pandemic preparedness and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), visit:

Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

For information on preparing your workforce for the possibility of business closures, working remotely, quarantines and more, visit:

Coronavirus and COVID-19

National Conference of State Legislatures

For the latest updates on state-by-state actions in response to the Coronavirus outbreak, visit:

State Action on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Illinois Department of Insurance COVID-19

U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship

The Small Business Owner's Guide to the CARES Act

Paycheck Protection Program

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Coronavirus Emergency Loans - Small Business Guide and Checklist


Coronavirus Resources


ImagineMD COVID-19 Resource Page

Vera Whole Health

Coronavirus Advisory


Coronavirus Update


As I said at the beginning, there is no playbook for our current situation.  All we can do is keep one another informed, offer assistance and resources when available, and show compassion towards one another.  Please reach out to your trusted advisors during this time of need, and know that I am personally here to support you as well.

Stay safe, health, and sane…CHEERS!