Congress Passes Another Temporary Telehealth Safe Harbor

On March 15, 2022, the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (H.R. 2471) into law (“CAA 2022”).  The CAA 2022 is largely a spending bill but also includes, among other things, a much-anticipated new telemedicine safe harbor similar to that which was created under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).  The safe harbor allows high deductible health plans (HDHPs) to cover medical and behavioral health treatment before participants meet their deductibles (i.e., without cost sharing).  The safe harbor applies from April 1, 2022, through December 31, 2022, regardless of plan year.

Background on Telehealth Safe Harbor under the CARES Act

On March 27, 2020, the CARES Act became law. While the CARES Act was largely an economic package intended to stabilize individuals and employers during COVID-19-related shutdowns, it also included several measures directly related to employee benefits. One specific provision was the safe harbor under which HDHPs could cover telehealth and other remote care without cost-sharing. As a result, no-cost telehealth could be provided to plan participants for any reason–not just COVID-19 related issues–without disrupting HSA eligibility.

The CARES Act safe harbor was a temporary measure, applying only to plan years beginning on or before December 31, 2021, which means, for calendar year plans, the safe harbor expired on December 31, 2021.  Without the safe harbor, telehealth programs that provide “significant benefits” in the nature of medical care or treatment generally disrupt HSA eligibility.  Whether benefits are “significant” is a facts and circumstances determination.  That said, in cases where a telehealth program provides robust benefits, such as medical advice and diagnosis for a broad range of non-emergency, common medical illnesses, general referrals to other provider types (including the emergency room), and certain …

By |March 21st, 2022|Broad Reach Benefits, Employee Benefits, Employee Communications, IRS, Legislation, Medical, Voluntary Benefits, Wellness|Comments Off on Congress Passes Another Temporary Telehealth Safe Harbor

Legal Update-6th Circuit Dissolves 5th Circuits Stay of OSHA COVID-19 Vaccine ETS; OSHA Intends to Move Forward with Enforcement

 

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to dissolve the Fifth Circuit’s stay of the OSHA COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). OSHA announced it intends to move forward with implementation of the ETS and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the ETS before January 10 (which is now the deadline for employers to, among other things, develop their written COVID-19 vaccination policies). Further, if an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with ensuring its employees are fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, OSHA will not issue citations for any employees who are not fully vaccinated before (or if the employer is not testing prior to) February 9, 2022. While petitioners have already appealed to the United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court), it is unclear at this time whether the Supreme Court will grant certiorari to review the decision or, if it does grant certiorari, whether it will overturn the decision.

By |December 21st, 2021|Broad Reach Benefits, Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Communications, Human Resources, Legislation, Medical|Comments Off on Legal Update-6th Circuit Dissolves 5th Circuits Stay of OSHA COVID-19 Vaccine ETS; OSHA Intends to Move Forward with Enforcement

OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard for COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Stayed By 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

President Biden announced that he ordered OSHA to develop an emergency temporary standard (ETS) that would require private employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that employees either receive one of the three available COVID-19 vaccines or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.  On November 5, 2021, OSHA published its COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard, which included a summary, fact sheet, and FAQs.  The ETS was immediately challenged by a number of petitioners, including states and private companies, seeking to permanently enjoin enforcement of the ETS.  On November 6, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (the 5th Circuit), temporarily stayed enforcement of the ETS pending briefing by the parties and expedited judicial review.

After completing its expedited review, on November 12, 2021, the 5th Circuit affirmed its initial stay, holding that petitioners met all four factors to establish the need for further stay, and ordered OSHA to take no further steps to implement or enforce the ETS pending adequate judicial review of the request for permanent injunction.  The U.S. Department of Justice disagreed that an immediate stay was necessary given that a “multi-circuit lottery” will occur on or about November 16, after which all lawsuits challenging the ETS will be heard by one federal appeals court.

OSHA ETS

As a reminder, the ETS requires employers with 100 or more employees to develop and implement a mandatory, written COVID-19 vaccination policy by December 5, 2021, or a written policy requiring employees to either be vaccinated or produce a negative COVID-19 test result and wear a face covering at work. Employers are required to begin enforcing the policy on January 4, 2022, meaning most employees of covered employers would …

By |November 17th, 2021|Broad Reach Benefits, Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Human Resources, Medical, Wellness|Comments Off on OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard for COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Stayed By 5th Circuit Court of Appeals