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CARES Act Makes Changes for Health Plans

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law to provide $2.2 trillion in federal funding to address the COVID-19 crisis. The CARES Act makes a variety of changes affecting health plans. These changes include:

  • Expanding the types of coronavirus testing that all health plans and health insurance issuers must cover without cost-sharing (such as deductibles, copayments, or co-insurance) or prior authorization;
  • Accelerating the process that will require health plans and issuers to cover preventive services and vaccines related to COVID-19;
  • Allowing telehealth and other remote care services to be covered under a high deductible health plan (HDHP) before the deductible is met, without affecting the HDHP’s compatibility with health savings accounts (HSAs) (applicable for HDHP plan years beginning on or before Dec. 31, 2021); and
  • Treating over-the-counter (OTC) medications, along with menstrual care products, as qualified medical expenses that may be paid for using HSAs or other tax-advantaged arrangements, such as health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) or health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

Action Steps

Practices that sponsor group health plans should become familiar with the CARES Act changes for their plans. While many of the changes are mandatory, there are some discretionary changes that employers can decide whether to make (in consultation with their issuers or benefits administrators). Any health plan changes should be communicated to plan participants.

Important Dates

  • January 1, 2020: HSAs, health FSAs, and HRAs can reimburse OTC medications without a prescription.
  • March 27, 2020: HDHPs can cover telehealth or other remote care services without a deductible.

Click on the following additional resources to learn more about how these areas of the CARES Act may affect your group health plan.

For additional information, please contact the Curi Benefit Solutions team by calling 800-662-7917.

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All Curi recommendations are based on current CDC criteria at the time of publication. CDC guidance for SARS-CoV-2 infection may, or may not, be adopted by state and local health departments to respond to rapidly changing local circumstances. Providers should always check with their local health department to see if the CDC’s guidance on any given topic has been modified (particularly if more restrictive) from the CDC’s recommended guidelines. Follow this link https://www.cdc.gov/publichealthgateway/healthdirectories/index.html for contact information to your state/local health department. If local recommendations vary from those of the CDC, and you are unsure what recommendations to follow, then it is safer to follow the more restrictive guidelines/recommendations.