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Are Out-of-Pocket Costs on Their Way Out? At-Home COVID-19 Testing and Expanded Preventative Healthcare for Women and Children

In response to a directive from the White House, based on provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that eliminated cost sharing for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, three federal government departments—the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the US Department of Labor (Labor) and the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury)—issued guidance in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that states group health plans and insurers must also cover over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 diagnostic testing. This guidance is effective beginning January 15, 2022.

In addition, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) updated the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) comprehensive preventive care and screening guidelines for women and children to cover additional services and supplies without a copay or deductible, effective 2023.

COVID-19 AT-HOME TESTING COVERAGE

On January 10, 2022, HHS, Labor and the Treasury together issued FAQs that elaborated on prior guidance and indicated that group health plans and insurers are required to cover OTC COVID-19 diagnostic tests without cost sharing. Because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases resulting from the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the guidance will continue for the duration of the public emergency.

Most consumers with private health coverage will be able to buy OTC COVID-19 tests and either have the cost covered upfront or be reimbursed later by submitting a claim to their health plan. The new requirement only applies to “diagnostic” OTC COVID-19 testing. It does not include the treatment of COVID-19 or testing that is for employment purposes.

The guidance provides that health plans and insurers must cover at least eight OTC COVID-19 diagnostic tests per covered individual per a 30-day period. Insurers will be able to set up networks of preferred suppliers to provide OTC COVID-19 tests directly to participants without upfront costs. Insurers must still reimburse OTC COVID-19 tests purchased outside the direct coverage program, however, the reimbursable amount is limited to $12 per test if the health plan also provides tests through its preferred pharmacy network and through a direct-to-consumer shipping program without upfront costs.

Besides the risk of increasing the average cost of OTC COVID-19 tests, the new initiative raises concerns over fraud and abuse. For health plans and insurers to protect themselves, the FAQs provide several examples of permissible activities to prevent fraud and abuse, like requiring proof of purchase or an attestation that the test was purchased for proper purposes (i.e., is being used by the covered individual, is not being reimbursed by another source, is not being resold and is not for employment purposes).

HRSA UPDATES ACA PREVENTIVE HEALTHCARE GUIDELINES

On January 11, 2022, HRSA announced that it updated the preventive health and screening guidelines for women, infants, children and adolescents. Under the ACA, certain group health plans and insurers must provide coverage with no out-of-pocket costs for preventive health services within these HRSA-endorsed comprehensive guidelines.

HRSA accepted the updates recommended by the Women’s Preventative [...]

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Global Employment Law Update

Employment law continues to evolve, and it can be a challenge amid an ever-changing landscape of local employment laws for human resources executives and employment counsel at multinational businesses to maintain a consistent global corporate culture.

McDermott’s Global Employment Law Update brings you the key highlights from across Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin and North America. Developed in collaboration with peer firms operating in more than 50 countries, this resource guide contains summaries of the laws and significant court decisions that impacted employers and employees all over the world. It includes:

  • COVID-19 legislative updates
  • Remote work and telecommuting policies
  • Data privacy protections
  • Minimum wage and salary compensation updates
  • Changes to labor protection laws
  • Sexual harassment modifications

Access the report.




American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: Key Healthcare Provisions

On March 10, 2021, US Congress finalized and passed the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARPA), the latest COVID-19 relief package that largely tracks President Joe Biden’s initial $1.9 trillion proposal. The ARPA extends unemployment insurance benefits and provides direct $1,400 stimulus payments to qualifying Americans, but it also makes several important health policy-related changes. These include providing funding for vaccine distribution and testing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, making policy adjustments to the Medicaid program, facilitating health insurance coverage and providing more money for healthcare providers. The final bill also makes two narrowly focused technical Medicare payment changes.

This summary highlights notable health policy provisions of the final bill.

Access the summary.

For more information, please contact Meg Gilley, Mara McDermott, Kristen O’Brien, Katie Waldo, Rodney Whitlock or Eric Zimmerman.




Top 10 Issues in Health Law 2021

A new president always brings new policy priorities and objectives, particularly when that president is from a different political party than their predecessor. As we begin 2021, and usher in the Biden era, we should likewise expect a significant shift in the health policy agenda.

Writing for the American Health Law Association’s Top 10 Issues in Health Law 2021, McDermott partner Eric Zimmerman discusses the top health policy priorities to watch for from the new administration.

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3 Benefits Takeaways from New Surprise Medical Billing Law

The No Surprises Act, which was tucked into the year-end spending bill, protects patients from getting slapped with surprise bills after visits to the emergency room or their regular medical providers, leaving any payment disputes up to their plan and provider to resolve.

A recent article in Law360 covers three key takeaways from the legislation that employers should know, with McDermott partner Judith Wethall weighing in.

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7 Ways President Biden Could Now Change Healthcare

The Democrats have control of all three levers of power—the Senate, the House and the presidency—for the first time since the early years of the Obama administration.

How will President Biden use this new concentration of power to shape healthcare policy?

A recent article in Medscape outlined seven key healthcare actions that Biden could pursue, with McDermottPlus consultant Rodney Whitlock weighing in.

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Consolidated Appropriations Act: Health and Welfare Benefits Provisions

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (the Act) was signed into law by the president on December 27, 2020, and includes significant health and welfare benefits provisions that affect group health plans and health insurance issuers. The Act is the most comprehensive single piece of legislation to impact group health plans since the Affordable Care Act.

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Healthcare Briefing: Georgia Races to Shape Biden Health Policy

This week’s runoff elections in Georgia could help President-elect Joe Biden quickly confirm his cabinet and begin in earnest on his healthcare agenda. However, it won’t mean that Democrats will be able to easily make good on their promises to expand on Obamacare, send more funds to states to fight the pandemic or lower the cost of prescription drugs.

In an article for Bloomberg Government, McDermottPlus consultant Rodney Whitlock speaks to the future of healthcare policy in the United States.

Access the article.




Agencies Issue Final Employer Healthcare Price Transparency Rule

On October 29, 2020, the US Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury (collectively, the Departments) issued the Transparency in Coverage final rule (the Rule), along with a fact sheet, setting forth requirements for group health plans and health insurance issuers to disclose cost-sharing information upon request to participants, as well as additional pricing information to the general public.

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“Because of Bostock” – Court Delays HHS Rule Re-interpreting Section 1557 Discrimination “Because of Sex”

One day before an updated rule of the US Department of Health and Human Services regarding Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act took effect, the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York ordered a stay and issued a preliminary injunction precluding the most recent final rules from becoming operative. Entities subject to Section 1557 should — at least until decisions are issued in cases pending in US district courts — be cautious in their approach to their non-discrimination compliance obligations.

Access the article.




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