COVID-19 Update: How the Coronavirus May Impact Your Employee Benefits

Mar 12, 2020 | Compliance, News

The novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is in the forefront of business discussions. As businesses are faced with many decisions regarding how they may best respond, Cobbs Allen is providing this brief update on matters that most directly pertain to our clients’ benefit programs.


Medical Benefits

There are a number of questions being directed to our team regarding medical benefits and treatment of medical claims pertaining to COVID-19. In light of President Trump’s address to the nation on the evening of March 11, many insurers are moving to cover testing for the virus without patient cost-share.

For those employers who are fully-funded or underwritten, your TPA will determine whether COVID-19 diagnostic testing and other related services will be provided with no cost-share to members.

Self-funded plan sponsors need to make a decision on how their plan will process claims related to testing and treatment of COVID-19. Plans have the ability to cover services (diagnostic testing and related office visits). We are seeing widespread adoption of benefits being made available at no out-of-pocket cost to members.

The IRS announced that high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) may cover COVID-19 testing and treatment without a member first being required to meet a deductible without losing their qualified HDHP status under the Code or threatening the tax-favored treatment of participants’ health savings accounts (HSAs).

Your Cobbs Allen team is working with your current TPA and will be providing more specific information.


Short-Term Disability

We have received questions regarding the definition of a disability related to COVID-19. Cobbs Allen will assist in communicating with your carrier partners regarding claims in which an eligible member has a qualifying and documented medical event, including an event related to COVID-19. The below outlines the general applicability of COVID-19 to a disability policy.

If an employee files a claim for Disability benefits due to a positive test for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) resulting in quarantine:

  • If the quarantined employee is unable to work, the employee may be considered Totally or Partially disabled.
  • If the employee is quarantined but symptoms allow them to perform work duties from home, the employee would generally not be considered Totally or Partially Disabled.

Due to the nature and typical length of a quarantined isolation, some absences may fall under employers’ paid sick or PTO plans. We encourage you to talk to your Cobbs Allen account management team if you have questions regarding how your specific policy may handle a claim.


Leave of Absence

If an employee, or an employee’s family member, contracts COVID-19, the employee may be entitled to time off from work under federal or state leave laws. For example, an employee may be entitled to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Many states have employee leave laws that could apply in a situation where the employee or family member contracts COVID-19. Some of these laws require employees to be given paid time off, while other laws require unpaid leave. Employers should become familiar with the laws in their jurisdiction.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) protects applicants and employees from disability discrimination. Employers are expected to make their best efforts to obtain public health advice that is contemporaneous and appropriate for their location, and to make reasonable assessments of conditions in their workplace based on this information.

If an employee with a recognized disability expresses concerns about potential exposure in the workplace a reasonable accommodation may be required. Our consulting team is available to assist with questions related to leave of absence and ADA as they arise.


Cobbs Allen Service and Support 

Cobbs Allen has prepared business contingency plans in the event a need arises to serve our clients remotely. Our team is prepared to conduct all operations remotely to ensure our client’s needs will be met should we believe there is a necessity to take such precautions. 

In the meantime, your dedicated service and consulting team is being encouraged to remain vigilant and follow standard health precautions. Team members are advised to stay home if they, or a member of their household, are sick.  Should “social distancing” become advisable, Cobbs Allen’s business continuity plan will go into effect.

We are closely monitoring the situation and will continue to update you with timely information as it becomes available. 


Links to Additional Information

DOL Issues Guidance on COVID-19 and the Family and Medical Leave Act

IRS Allows High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) to Cover Coronavirus Costs


Cobbs Allen is a national independent agency focused on risk management in niche practice groups. We deliver commercial insurance, employee benefits, personal insurance, and alternative risk financing services to our clients. Headquartered in Birmingham, AL, the firm is ranked in the top 100 of privately held brokerage firms and the top 100 of all U.S. brokerage firms.



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