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Employers Mobilizing Benefits and Policy Changes in Light of COVID-19

National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions releases survey results from 256 employers across country

As the coronavirus disrupts lives and businesses around the world, employers are mobilizing to support their employees and community efforts related to COVID-19 testing, treatment and social distancing. Their approaches are not universal, with significant variations among organizations and across industries. This is among the findings of a survey from the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (National Alliance) conducted to help employers understand and benchmark the handling of COVID-19 from a benefits and policy perspective.

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“We’re faced with a tale of two cities,” said Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO. “While most salaried employees can effectively work from home, the great majority of hourly workers don’t have the same flexibility. Where possible employers are moving rapidly to enable a virtual workplace. Where this is not possible, they are working to maintain a certain level of operations and support social distancing. All are looking at how to best mitigate the financial impact for their employees as well as their own bottom line.”

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Additional survey findings:

  • Almost all organizations have banned unessential travel, hosting and attendance at in-person meetings (98+%).
  • In general, over 70% of salaried employees and less than 50% of hourly employees can work from home and effectively perform their jobs. The ability to effectively work from home also varies by industry as finance, insurance and professional services are more adaptable than retail and manufacturing.
  • For those employees who can work from home, 69% of employers have implemented telecommunicating policies, with 50% on a mandatory basis.
  • For those employees that cannot effectively do their jobs at home, 60% of employers are implementing flex hours for jobs that require employees at the worksite; 24% are shutting operations temporarily with pay (another 20% considering); and 5% are shuttering operations without pay (another 24% considering).
  • Telemedicine is rapidly becoming a mainstream strategy with waived copays for testing visits.
  • The emotional impact of COVID-19 is also being addressed as 53% of employers are providing special programs for their workforce.
  • Accommodations for caregiving responsibilities due to COVID-19 (e.g., as schools and daycares shut down) are also being considered by employers with 59% offering unpaid family leave and 46% offering paid family leave.
  • Considering the recent IRS guidance for benefit coverage under HSA-compatible high deductible plans, 89% of employers are offering or considering offering first dollar coverage of COVID-19 testing. At this time, 37% are also covering the actual treatment of conditions related to COVID-19 on a first dollar basis.
  • Well over half (66%) are waiving or considering waiving copays for office visits associated with the COVID-19 testing and three out of four are waiving or considering waiving copays related to COVID-19 related telemedicine visits.
  • Employers are generally not offering similar COVID-19 coverage for non-benefit eligible employees or contractors. Few employers are currently offering COVID-19 testing at onsite/near site clinics.

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