February 14, 2023
Answers to Three Key Questions About COVID-19 After the Emergency
Many employers in our network have questions about the end of the COVID-19 emergency and how it could affect their business and employee health. So, we sat down with Jeff Levin-Scherz, Population Health Leader at WTW (formerly known as Willis Towers Watson), to ask what employers can expect:
Q: How can employers ensure a smooth transition for their workers once the COVID-19 emergency ends?
A: Employer plans will no longer be required to cover over-the-counter rapid antigen tests—but employers will be free to maintain this coverage. Doing so could help keep COVID-19 out of the workplace: infectious employees may be more likely to stay home if they know they have COVID-19 from a positive test.
Employers should alert employees to changes to coverage, which could include no longer covering vaccination, testing and treatment from out-of-plan providers, and applying cost-sharing requirements to COVID-19 testing or treatment.
Q: What does the end of the emergency mean to telehealth?
A: The emergency declarations created new flexibility for accessing telemedicine across state lines. Now, some states could reinstate requirements that providers be licensed where they are practicing. Congress made it so that telehealth flexibility remains in place through the end of 2024, but only for people on Medicare.
Q: Does the end of the COVID-19 emergency limit employers’ tools to keep COVID-19 out of the workplace?
A: No. Employees will still be able to get boosters for free from in-network providers, and employers will continue to be able to provide boosters on-site in the same way they do each year for flu shots.
Future COVID-19 vaccines will still be covered without cost sharing in employer-sponsored health plans that are compliant with the Affordable Care Act as long as those vaccines are recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Employers can also continue to encourage masking and promote good hygiene (like reminding people to wash their hands, and providing hand sanitizer, especially as people return to in-person work and shaking hands). They can be sure the workplace is mask-friendly, and improve ventilation to further reduce the risk of workplace transmission of COVID-19 as well as other respiratory viruses.
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