What does the end of the COVID public health emergency on May 11 mean for health benefits?
The expiration of COVID-19 era public health benefits, including COVID-19 coverage mandates for health insurance and the suspension of Medicaid dis-enrollments, means many workers and employers need to reorient themselves in the health care marketplace. Now, the U.S. Department of Labor has released a blog by Lisa M. Gomez, the Assistant Secretary to the Employee Benefits Security Administration, offering tips on how experts can adapt to the new landscape.
Gomez identifies key changes coming to the marketplace, which are:
- COVID tests, vaccines: Employers will no longer be required to provide certain COVID-19 coverage to employees free of charge, including testing and out-of-network COVID vaccines.
- Medicaid: With Medicaid dis-enrollments restarting, some employees who are currently covered under Medicaid or CHIP may have already become uninsured March 31, 2023 and need to join their employer’s health plan. Many states are beginning to unwind this continuous enrollment and some state agencies have not terminated coverage for any beneficiary who was covered at any time on or after March 18, 2020. The DOL has also developed a flyer that employers can use to provide employees with information about these options.
- COBRA: Multiple deadlines have been suspended or extended during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the deadlines for enrolling in COBRA and paying COBRA premiums. These extensions will end July 10, 2023.
“I urge employers and other plan sponsors to keep in mind the best interests of their workers and their families, who rely on their health benefits for their physical and mental wellbeing,” Gomez writes in the blog. “It is critical to communicate with your participants as we enter the next chapter of the COVID-19 experience. What health benefits are changing? When? Can they still receive free COVID-19 tests? If not, what will the new benefits be? What are the new deadlines by which participants and their families need to make key health decisions? These are all important questions for workers and their families.”
She adds, “We need to work together to ensure that individuals in your health plan are informed about changes to their benefits and continue to have access to COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and treatment, when at all possible.”