On March 18, 2020 the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which takes effect
April 2, 2020 April 1, 2020. The FFCRA includes several provisions that impact employers with less than 500 employees, with allowable exemptions for affected employers with fewer than 50 employees. This blog post addresses the three (3) main aspects of the FFCRA: 1. Mandated waiver of health insurance related cost sharing for COVID-19 testing; 2. New paid leave entitlements; and 3. Employer tax credits.
UPDATE: Here’s a link to access the required, FFCRA employee notice –
Importantly, the leave related benefits expire on December 31, 2020, and the COVID-19 testing benefit last – “until the Secretary of Health and Human Services determines that the public health emergency has expired“. Here’s an overview of what the FFCRA requires from a health insurance coverage, expanded paid leave, and tax credit aspect:
COVERAGE (COVID-19 TESTING)
Last week, I wrote about a meeting between the Vice President and leaders of the nation’s largest health insurers that led to a voluntary agreement to waive health insurance cost sharing for COVID-19 testing. See – https://smstevensandassociates.com/coronavirus-health-insurance-benefits/
The FFCRA now compels virtually all health insurance plans to cover FDA approved testing for COVID-19 without imposing any plan related cost sharing (e.g., copays, deductibles, coinsurance). The ban on cost sharing (or the provision of 100% coverage) also applies to virtual health (aka tele-health, tele-medicine, tele-doc). This benefit expansion applies to covered testing provided by both PPO and Non-PPO providers, and also eliminates the requirement for plan members to preauthorize COVID-19 testing with their health plan. Note that the ban on cost sharing applies both to the actual testing, and any associated office visit charge, including Urgent Care Centers and Emergency Rooms.
Importantly, the waiver of cost sharing applies to all styles of health insurance plans, including HSA qualified high deductible health plans (HDHPs). The IRS issued guidance allowing HSA HDHPs to maintain their qualified status while waiving the plan cost sharing for COVID-19 testing. Lastly, the FFCRA allows members to get necessary prescription drug refills, irrespective of otherwise applicable quantity or refill limits.
There are two (2) separate paid leave provisions in the FFCRA. It’s important to keep in mind that currently, the FMLA applies only to employers with 50+ employees. The FFCRA applies to employers with less than 500 employees, but does allow exemptions for certain, affected employers with less than 50 employees.
1.)The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act – amends the Federal and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to allow employees paid time off for childcare purposes related to COVID-19.
2.) Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
Employers may qualify for reimbursement through tax credits for all qualifying wages paid under the FFCRA, on a dollar for dollar basis. Qualifying wages are those paid to an employee who takes a qualified leave under the FFCRA, up to the stipulated per diem and aggregate payment limits. Importantly, applicable tax credits also extend to premiums/fees paid or incurred to maintain health insurance coverage during a qualified leave.
As of the time of this blog post, regulations have not yet been promulgated for the FFCRA, but are expected soon. In the mean time, the Dept. of Labor has a great resource to assist employers in understanding the FFCRA and its impact on their companies and organizations. See – https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave
UPDATE: Here’s an excellent resource chart addressing the various forms of sick leave –