Seyfarth Synopsis: Late Monday night, the House passed a technical corrections package to HR 6201. While most of the changes related to the Bill’s paid sick leave, unemployment insurance and tax credits provisions (click here for a summary of those changes), there was one small change to the health insurance section: The package clarified that plans must provide no-cost coverage for telehealth services related to coronavirus testing. This post explores the implications of that seemingly minor change.
As noted in our prior blog post, HR 6201 would require health plans of all shapes and sizes to cover COVID-19 testing and any related office visits or hospital admissions, at no cost to participants. The technical corrections added a parenthetical clarifying that plans would be required to provide “coverage, and shall not impose any cost sharing” for telehealth services related to COVID-19 testing. While this is seemingly a simple addition, it creates a number of questions, including:
- If a plan does not currently offer a telehealth option, will it be require to add a telehealth service?
- If a plan presently covers telehealth through a contracted stand-alone vendor (e.g., Teladoc, MD Live), will it be required to also cover telehealth visits with traditional providers (e.g., primary care physicians)?
- If a plan expands coverage to offer telehealth for medical services relating to COVID-19 screenings, is it required, under the MHPAEA, to also offer telehealth services for mental health or substance abuse counseling?
- Will vendors be able to code COVID-19-screening related telehealth “visits” so that plans may identify circumstances where cost-sharing must be waived? If not, can a plan instead establish a reimbursement vehicle (e.g., a health reimbursement arrangement) to offset the associated costs?
While not at the core of these provisions, questions remain as to whether plans may waive cost-sharing for all telehealth services (those COVID-19 related or otherwise) without impacting the status of a high deductible health plan. (IRS guidance issued last week clarified that fees may be waived for all services relating to COVID-19, but it did not address telehealth more broadly, which has increased in popularity as participants seek to avoid hospitals and doctors’ offices).
We will continue to monitor and provide additional updates on HR 6201 as it moves to the Senate.
Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for an extensive overview of workplace considerations relating to the coronavirus.