One of the objectives of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) is to help people get the care they need with fewer obstacles and less-in-person contact. It adds to the health provisions in a bill passed in March – the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
The CARES ACT health provisions will be most beneficial to families with High Deductible Health Insurance plans (HDHPs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs), which are pre-tax savings accounts for healthcare expenses. However, Medicare Part D participants and anyone who gets a test for COVID-19 will benefit too.
EXPANDED USE OF HSAs
-Telehealth services used to be subject a deductible, now they are covered before a patient has met the plan deductible. Usual cost-sharing, such a co-pay, is still allowed. This provision will sunset in December 2020.
Permanent and retroactive to January 1, 2020 provisions:
-It’s now ok to buy over-the-counter medical products, such as OTC drugs and surgical masks, without a prescription and get reimbursed by an HSA. With the prior rules, effective since January 2011, a prescription was necessary for reimbursement.
-Certain menstrual care products such as tampons and pads are now reimbursable medical expenses.
PLANNING TIP: For individuals and families experiencing cash flow issues some of the existing HSA rules can help. For example, there are no time restrictions or deadlines for when you can reimburse yourself from your HSA. You can claim reimbursement for eligible items if you have proof of purchase as far back as when you first opened the account.
PLANNING TIP: While HSA can’t be used to cover your share of employer-provided medical insurance, they can be used by unemployed people to pay premiums on an independent policy or coverage through COBRA.
COVID-19 TESTING WITHOUT COST SHARING
The FFCRA mandates that private insurance companies and Medicare cover COVID-19 testing and a vaccine for free. The CARES Act extends free testing to any services or items provided during a medical visit that results in coronavirus testing. Medical visits can be in-person, a telehealth visit, an urgent care or emergency room visit. This benefit remains in effect only while there is a declared public health emergency. It’s not certain if self-administered tests (if and when available) will be covered.
The CARES ACT also clarifies that Medicaid must cover such tests regardless of whether they are authorized for emergency use by the FDA.
PRESCRIPTION SUPPLY BENEFIT
Medicare PART D recipients can order up to a 90 day supply of medications. Prior to the CARES Act passing, a PART D insurance plan had the option to relax their “refill too soon” restrictions but now they are required to do so. The change is designed so that all Part D enrollees can get an extended supply of medications during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
PLANNING TIP: Place orders of your medications for 90-day supplies to save trips to the pharmacy and the hassle of having to reorder in less time.
SOME OTHER HEALTH PROVISIONS
-Reauthorization of programs to strengthen rural community health, the Healthy Start program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
-Dollars to support domestic food assistance programs (breakfast and school lunch, SNAP, emergency food assistance.
-Funding for the Defense Production Act, Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, Disaster Relief Fund, FEMA, Indian Health Service, CDC, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, CMS, Public Health and Social Social Services Emergency Fund and others.