Thursday, May 14, 2020

HR Advisory | New OE Tools, Obesity & COVID-19

I hope everyone's been having a positive and productive week. There is no shortage of activity on many fronts right now from conflicting opinions at the federal level on the biological impact of returning to work, to the proposed 4th phase of governmental assistance. Let’s not forget of course, the varying approaches and stages to re-opening that not only differ by state, but in many cases, differ within a state. It’s enough to make your head spin! Placer county, for example, now permits restaurants to open for dine-in service, but they must comply with this very detailed 12-page list of guidelines. Our world has definitely changed. Despite all of this “noise”, we have some great information that will allow you to stay up to speed on the dizzying amount of activity. 


Our Benefits Administration and Technology practices have teamed up to develop a Brainshark video on Open Enrollment Considerations Due to Covid-19. If you have not yet seen or used Brainshark, this is an added solution we can employ this year and it is proving to be an outstanding addition to socially distant OEs. This video presentation focuses on three important areas:
  1. Best practices for collecting and managing accurate employee contact information (and why now, this is more critical than ever)
  2. Benefits Communication Best Practices
  3. Benefits Enrollment Considerations
Our Wellness Practice has released a Wellness Advisory entitled Obesity: America’s Covid-19 Achilles Heel. This comprehensive Advisory highlights that obesity is a significant risk factor for severe Covid-19 complications, why obesity impacts the severity, and most importantly, steps Employers can take to help employees.

Proposed Legislation

Pandemic anxiety keeping you up at night? Perhaps we can help with some light nighttime reading – here are 1,815 pages of legislative text of the “Heroes Act” totaling $3 trillion (with a ‘t’!) for the next round of COVID relief proposed today by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats in the House.

Want the cheat sheet? Here is the 90-page summary, and if that is too much for you, here is a solid Bloomberg analysis. Headlines for the employee benefits market include:

  • Fully funded private employer insurance premiums for laid-off or furloughed workers between March and next January; and
  • Codification of free insurer coverage for COVID patients with no out-of-pocket expenses.

Employers, though, won’t like the bill’s expansion of COBRA benefits for workers through next January—an administrative nightmare for the employers with a retroactive open enrollment window. Kate Jensen, our benefits-law expert at Steptoe & Johnson, notes that even if employers are made whole financially with tax credits, “they could be overwhelmed trying to administer this thing on very short notice.” Hard to keep up with former employees if they don’t want to be kept up with.

We are not engaged in the practice of law, and the foregoing is not intended as legal advice nor is it intended to replace any legal opinion from counsel. We recommend that you consult with your attorney or tax advisor regarding any issues contained herein. The foregoing is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding tax-related penalties.