Health Insurance Wrinkles: COVID-19 Testing and COBRA

The US Department of Labor (DOL) has released guidance for employers concerning two insurance issues: paying for COVID-19 testing and COBRA.

COVID-19 Testing Covered

On June 22, 2020, The U. S. Department of Labor released guidance that outlines when group health plans must cover workers’ COVID-19 tests. If an employee has symptoms or potential exposure, the insurance must cover the cost of any at-home test. Any co-pay must be covered for a worker getting a test at a medical facility. This applies to tests for active infections, tests for antibodies, and for multiple tests. It also covers any tests or services delivered in determining if an employee has the virus, such as an X-ray or ultrasound. It does not apply to tests required by the employer. The employer must pay for those. Keep in mind that the laws being interpreted by the DOL in this guidance do not require plans and insurers to pay for people’s coronavirus treatment.

COBRA Notice and Payments Extended

As you know, under COBRA, employees and dependents who lose coverage as a result of a qualifying event have 60 days to elect COBRA coverage. Also, employees who elect coverage have 45 days from the COBRA election to make the first premium payment, and then a  30-day grace period that starts at the beginning of each coverage month.

The DOL’s final rule extends the 60-day COBRA election period to disregard the outbreak period, so employees can wait until the end of the period to elect coverage. In addition, the 45-day initial premium payment and 30-day grace period for subsequent premium payment timeframes are disregarded until the end of the outbreak. No one knows at this point when the outbreak period will end, so employers cannot assume because they do not yet have notice or payment that the employee is not electing COBRA.

This is yet another wrinkle for employers to keep track of. If you have questions or concerns about this or any other law that has been passed or changed to contend with COVID-19, feel free to call Employers Council.