• CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) RESOURCES & INFORMATION

As information continues to unfold regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand you are focused on how to help your families, businesses and teams acclimate to an ever-changing situation. Our goal is to be respectful while still offering helpful solutions. You’ll find resources, solutions and answers to frequently asked questions on this site. 

Please note:
We’re monitoring the situation and updating as quickly as possible, but this page may not contain the latest information. Please review the CDC, DOL and WHO websites for the most up-to-date information.


The information on this page is for educational purposes only. It is not legal or tax advice. For legal or tax advice, you should consult your own counsel.

You may have employees incurring unexpected expenses as a result of the pandemic. There are a number of solutions you can provide to support them that cover a variety of healthcare, financial and wellness costs that have recently emerged. We have outlined these solutions below.

If you would like us to reach out to you about solutions to support your employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, please click here.


Resources

Webinar:

COVID Employee Panel Webinar Recording
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact workplaces across the country and employers are looking for ways to help support their employees. Watch as our panel of experts review options you can implement to help support your employees financially and emotionally. Watch the recording.

Weekly Updates:

 


Disaster Relief Payments (Section 139)

This plan is employer-funded and leverages tax-free dollars to help your employees during a federally declared disaster. On March 13, 2020, COVID-19 was designated a disaster under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

Under this plan, dollars are provided to employees and used to reimburse or pay reasonable and necessary personal, family, living or funeral expenses incurred as a result of COVID-19. Offer this plan to cover expenses such as, but not limited to:

  • Health-related expenses not considered medical, including over-the-counter medications, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, cleaners, soap
  • Child care and/or tutoring expenses due to school closings
  • Increased home expenses, such as home office set-up, internet and cell phone charges, printer and related expenses Increased utility expenses
  • Transportation expenses due to work relocation
  • Critical care and funeral expenses

* As with any plan offerings, please consult with your legal counsel, tax adviser and benefits attorney.

If you have questions about this plan, let us know if you'd like to learn more.

Download our solution comparison handout


Emergency Spending Account (another form of LSA specific to COVID-19)

This plan is employer-funded and leverages post-tax dollars to help your employees through this challenging time by covering any expenses you choose.

Offer this plan to cover any expenses that have emerged as a result of COVID-19, including (but not limited to):

  • Additional daycare needs
  • Work-from-home equipment (such as monitors, internet charges, cell phone expenses, etc.)
  • Groceries Meal delivery services (UberEats, Grubhub, etc.)
  • Meal delivery kits (Blue Apron, HelloFresh, etc.)

*Eligible expenses under this plan can be added or removed at any time. Post-pandemic, this plan can be terminated or converted to a Lifestyle Spending Account and cover wellness-related expenses.

** As with any plan offerings, please consult with your legal counsel, tax adviser and benefits attorney.

If you have questions about this plan, let us know if you'd like to learn more.


Lifestyle Spending Account

This plan is employer-funded and leverages post-tax dollars to promote the wellbeing of employees through physical, financial and emotional wellness, especially during these trying times.

Offer this plan to cover expenses such as, but not limited to:

  • Athletic equipment and accessories
  • Virtual fitness classes
  • Home purchase expense reimbursement (down payment, closing costs, etc.)
  • Financial Advisor fees
  • Virtual meditation classes
  • Counseling services

* Eligible expenses under this plan can be added or removed at any time. The examples above are relevant to the current pandemic.

** As with any plan offerings, please consult with your legal counsel, tax adviser and benefits attorney.

If you have questions about this plan, let us know if you'd like to learn more.


Limited Purpose COVID-19 HRA (HSA compatible)

This plan is employer-funded and helps prevent employees from avoiding medical expenses simply because they have not yet satisfied their High-Deductible Health Plan’s annual deductible and that are not covered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This HRA pays first before HSA dollars are needed.

Offer this plan if your carrier or insurer does not cover certain medical expenses, including:

  • Ambulance expenses
  • Hospital expenses
  • Laboratory expenses
  • X-ray
  • Other medical services

* As with any plan offerings, please consult with your legal counsel, tax adviser and benefits attorney.


COBRA

Our COBRA administration provides comprehensive, end-to-end administration that allows employers to subsidize COBRA coverage for affected qualified beneficiaries. Our administration includes:

  • Automation of COBRA notices
  • Carrier updates regarding COBRA coverage
  • Consumer online and mobile app options
  • Ability to subsidize COBRA coverage

* As with any plan offerings, please consult with your legal counsel, tax adviser and benefits attorney.


Direct Bill

Our Direct Bill solution takes the collecting of employee’s insurance premiums off the employer’s plate. Due to COVID-19, many employees are on leave of absence or are furloughed and not receiving their typical paycheck so payroll deductions are not possible. Our administration:

  • Takes the billing process off the employer’s plate.
  • Lessens the hardship for employees, allowing them to pay premiums as they go versus paying missed premiums in a lump sum once they return to work. (For example, if they were out on a leave of absence or their wages are not enough to cover their premium payments.)
  • Capability to collect all premiums once each month.
  • Built-in flexibility to adjust based on changing needs.
  • Administrative platform that allows employers to view member accounts, pull on demand reporting, and view notifications.

* As with any plan offerings, please consult with your legal counsel, tax adviser and benefits attorney.


Discovery Marketplace

This marketplace provides consumers access to affordable individual insurance coverage options reducing their need for COBRA.

Offer Discovery Marketplace for products including, but not limited to:

  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Ancillary

Custom Communication Solutions

For assistance with preparing or sending communication to your employees about their benefits, direct bill or COBRA coverage ask us about our Custom Communication Solutions. We have a team ready to help assist you.

Our technology & resources

To protect the health and well-being of our employees, we have transitioned almost all of our workforce to a temporary work-from-home model. For the fastest claims processing, distributions, and payment options leverage these options.

To get the most out of your account: 

Easily access funds using your Discovery Benefits debit card. Learn more about what’s eligible using our searchable eligible expense list.

Use your benefits debit card online at:

Resources:

Videos:


CARES Act

Q: What is the CARES Act?

A: The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. It permanently reinstates coverage of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medicines as eligible for reimbursement from HSA, FSAs and HRAs without need for a prescription. For more on the CARES Act, click here.

Q: How can I get reimbursed for these new eligible expenses now? 

A: For any OTC purchases made since January 1st, 2020 you can submit a claim in your online account or mobile app. It will take anywhere from 2-4 weeks for your debit card to automatically approve these expenses because SIGIS and merchants need time to update eligible expenses to allow debit card transactions to approve.


Health Savings Account (HSA)

Adjusting Contributions
Pre-tax payroll contributions to your Health Savings Account (HSA) can be increased, reduced or stopped at any time through your employer.

*Please note: All funds in an HSA carry over from year to year. 

2019 Contribution Extension
The federal tax-filing due date was postponed to July 15, 2020 (from April 15, 2020) as part of IRS Notice 2020-18. As a result, HSA participants have until this date to contribute funds to their HSA for the 2019 tax year.

Paying for coronavirus
On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law. The legislation states that testing for COVID-19 is free and provides up to two weeks of paid leave to individuals affected by the coronavirus in a number of ways.

Eligible expenses you might need right now:

  • Ambulance
  • Emergency Room
  • Telemedicine

Medical, Limited Medical or Combination Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

Adjusting Contributions
Pre-tax payroll contributions to your Medical or Limited Purpose FSA can be increased, reduced or stopped.

Eligible expenses you might need right now:

  • Ambulance
  • Emergency Room
  • Telemedicine

Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (Dependent Care FSA)

Adjusting Contributions
Pre-tax payroll contributions to your Dependent Care FSA can be increased, reduced or stopped.

Eligible expenses you might need right now:

  • Relative care (payments to a relative for dependent care)
  • Babysitter (inside or outside your household)
  • Back-up or Emergency Care Late Pickup Fee

Commuter Benefits

Adjusting Contributions
Pre-tax payroll contributions to your Commuter Benefits (transit or parking) can be increased, reduced or stopped any time.

*Not all plans support updating contributions in your online account. If you’re unable to update your election, contact your employer with the requested change.

**Please confirm with your employer that payroll deductions were adjusted after making changes in your online account.

Refunds or Credits
If you’ve already purchased a monthly pass for April or May using your benefits debit card, each transit authority has a different refund policy. Some may charge a fee to refund or only refund a portion of the total pass cost.

Please contact your transit authority for information on their refund policy. You may provide your benefits card as the form of payment, and the refund will be placed back onto the card.

Discovery SmartCommute™
We’re working with our three Discovery SmartCommute™ cities to assist our participants in refunds or credits. If you have not yet adjusted your May orders, please do so in your online account.

San Francisco (Clipper® card) Riders
You will receive a refund if your April monthly pass is unused. The refund will be applied in June and you’ll be able to confirm in your online account.

Washington D.C (WMATA SmarTrip® card) Riders
We recommend not purchasing your monthly pass in WMATA’s site in April if you do not need the benefit. The unused dollars will rollover to the next benefit month.

Chicago (Ventra® card) Riders
If you have an active 30-day March pass, you are eligible to receive a prorated credit. Please visit https://www.ventrachicago.com/covid-19/ for instructions on how to receive the one-time credit back to your Ventra account.

For your April pass, you can either keep your un-activated pass for future use or convert to a matching benefit value up to the account balance limit of $500 allowed on the VentraⓇ card.


Contact Us

Our Participant Services team is available Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Central Time, with the exception of some major holidays.

Benefits

COBRA

Q:Why would we offer one plan over another?
 
A: Factors such as the tax status of the new plans, the eligible expenses, and length of benefit may influence your decision on which plan(s) you choose. One might suit your organization better.
 
Q:What are some of the covered expenses under these new plans?
 
A: It depends on the plan offering. For most of the plans, eligible expenses are determined by the employer.
 
Q:Can we offer these plans along with FSA and HSA?
 
A: Yes, these new plans can be offered alongside your other benefits. Your employees will benefit from having one online account, one debit card, and one mobile app for all of their benefit plans we administer.
 
Q:How do employees receive reimbursement for these plans if there is no debit card?
 
A: Employees can submit for reimbursement in their online account or mobile app. Reimbursement can be issued in the form of a check or direct deposit.
 
Q:Is there a limit on the amount employers can fund through these new benefits?
 
A: As these accounts are 100% employer funded, the contribution limit is set at the employer’s discretion.
 
Q:Do we need to run non-discrimination testing for these new plans?
 
A: These plans do not require non-discrimination testing.
 
Q:Can we decide what expenses and how much to contribute based on employee class?
 
A: Yes, you can design these plans to reimburse expenses based on, for example, hours worked, location, or class of employee. Employers determine what works best for you and your employees.
 
Q:Is there an end date for how long the Disaster Relief Payment plan can be offered?
 
A: The duration of the benefit is at the employer’s discretion, but should be tied to the COVID-19 emergency.
 
Q:How long does it take to get these plans implemented?
 
A: We understand that these plans and reimbursements are needed now, and we will expedite the implementation of these benefits as quickly as possible.
 
Q:What are the costs for these plans?
 
A: Please contact your consultant, our Client Services department or submit this form to get more information on adding these benefits.
Q: Are expenses related to the testing and treatment of COVID-19 allowable under a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)?
 
A: Yes. On March 11, the IRS issued Notice 2020-15, which aims to help remove barriers for the testing and treatment of COVID-19. Notice 2020-15 extended the definition of what can be covered under a qualified High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) before the deductible is met. Costs for medical care services received and items purchased associated with testing for and treatment of COVID-19 can now be covered expenses.
 
Q: Has the deadline to submit HSA contributions for the 2019 calendar year been extended?
 
A: Yes. In an FAQ released on March 24, the IRS confirmed that 2019 contributions may be accepted up to the filing deadline of July 15, 2020.
 
Q: What options do I have to fund our employees’ HSAs to help cover medical costs?
 
A: An employer contribution is a popular way to help employees cover expenses before their deductible is met. Discovery Benefits also offers HSA Advance, which allows employers to provide an advance of HSA funds before their employees have contributed those funds to their HSAs.
 
Q: Can a Health Savings Account be used to cover COBRA premiums?
 
A: Yes, a Health Savings Account can be used to cover COBRA premiums. For a list of all eligible expenses for HSAs visit our eligible expense list.
Q: Can we extend our run-out period to allow our employees more time to submit claims?
 
A: The rules under EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 require you to give participants additional time after the COVID-19 national emergency is declared over to submit Medical FSA claims for any plan year that has a run-out period ending during the relevant timeframe (March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the end of the COVID-19 national emergency). Dependent Care FSAs are not subject to this rule.
 
Q: Can we extend our grace period to allow our employees more time to submit claims?
 
A: For Medical FSA and/or dependent care plans or grace periods ending in 2020, new IRS guidance provides you the option to amend your plan so that unused funds may be used on expenses incurred through December 31, 2020.
 
Q: Are we allowed to update our plan document to allow mid-year changes to participant elections if needed?
 
A: As the employer, you own the information within the plan document. Discovery Benefits provides plan document assistance within your LEAP™ account. For more information on plan documents, log in to review this article. For information on whether you can allow mid-year changes to participant elections, consult your employee benefits or tax counsel.
 
Q: Do parents now working from home constitute a qualifying event for a Dependent Care FSA election change?
 
A: The IRS Dependent Care election change rules may allow participants to increase, decrease, add or revoke an election for dependent care benefits. Each change is dependent on the participant's situation and the election change rules under the employer's plan. This article explains IRS- approved qualifying events.
 
Q: If an employees makes changes to their accounts, can they also make future changes in 2020, or do they need to wait until the next open enrollment period?
 
A: Changes to FSA elections need to follow the IRS rules for qualifying events. We also recommend reviewing your plan documents to ensure your plan currently allows for mid-year changes.
 
Q: Can I provide employer contributions to my employees’ Dependent Care FSAs?
 
A: Yes, you can provide employer contributions to your employees’ Dependent Care FSAs. The total contributions to an employee’s account (including employer and employee) cannot exceed the IRS annual maximum. Log in to LEAP™ for details. Nondiscrimination rules apply.
Q: Can we extend the payment grace period because of COVID-19?
 
A: The rules under EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-21 extended the standard COBRA 30-day grace period for premium payments through the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency declaration. The extension is retroactive to payments due since March 1, 2020 and until 60 days after the COVID-19 national emergency is declared over.
 
Q: Can we extend the election deadline for our qualified beneficiaries?
 
A: The rules under EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-21 extended the standard COBRA 60-day time frame that qualified beneficiaries have to elect COBRA through the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency declaration. The extension is retroactive to election period end dates since March 1, 2020 and until 60 days after the COVID-19 national emergency is declared over.
 
Q: Can we cover a portion or all of our terminated employees’ COBRA coverage?
 
A: You can provide a subsidy to help lessen the burden of COBRA coverage. Log in to review this article for instructions on how to add a subsidy. COBRA coverage and subsidies are also be reviewed by the federal government. In this short video, Chris Bryd, Executive Vice President, WEX outlines what may be coming.
 
Q: When do I have to offer COBRA?
 
A: Our COBRA Cheat Sheet outlines basic COBRA regulations on COBRA qualifying events and when COBRA needs to be offered. Employers should consult their own employee benefits or tax counsel regarding their specific situations.
 
Q: Do we need to offer FSA through COBRA?
 
 
Q: Can a Health Savings Account be used to cover COBRA premiums?
 
A: Yes, a Health Savings Account can be used to cover COBRA premiums. For a list of all eligible expenses for HSAs visit our eligible expense list.
 
Q: Can we extend the payment grace period because of COVID-19?
 
A: At this time, the federal COBRA grace period has not been extended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states are requiring or encouraging insurers to extend payment grace periods for certain types of insurance premiums and plans. If you wish to extend the grace period or have determined with your legal counsel that the state mandate applies to you (because the interplay between federal and state law in this area is complicated, and so the state pronouncement may not apply to you), and you have confirmed with your insurance or stop-loss carrier(s) that coverage can be reinstated after a period of non-payment, we can ensure that the payment grace period is extended for COBRA members.
Q: What is the difference between a layoff and a furlough?
 
A: While use of the terms varies, in general a layoff is considered the temporary suspension or termination of employment of an employee. A furlough (sometimes referred to as leave of absence) is a temporary leave of the employee due to special needs of a company or employer, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole.
 
Q: What impact does a furlough have on Medical, Limited, or Combination (post-deductible) Flexible Spending Accounts?
 
A: It depends upon the type of leave and the terms of the plan. The uniform coverage rule allows employees to have access to their entire annual election amount regardless of whether the employee is providing payroll contributions. Once the employee returns to active employment the remainder of his or her annual election amount will be prorated over the remaining pay periods in the plan year.
 
Q: Will employees be able to access their FSA funds during their furlough?
 
A: It depends on the type of leave and the terms of the plan. If the employee is still considered “employed” during the furlough, he or she might still have full access to his or her FSA funds and can file a claim in their online account or mobile app or use their debit card.
 
Q: Can Discovery Benefits help us collect employee premiums payments while on furlough?
 
A: Yes, Discovery Benefits offers Direct Bill, allowing you to bill employees for their portion of medical, dental, and vision premiums. Fill out our RFP form for more information.
 
Q: Do I need to offer COBRA to my furloughed employees?
 
A: Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to this question. Whether COBRA should be offered to furloughed employees instead of Direct Bill depends on the terms of the employer’s plan. Generally if the plan says coverage is lost as a result of the reduction in hours, then it’s a COBRA qualifying event. If coverage is not lost under the terms of the plan, there’s probably no COBRA qualifying event. The rules are complicated – for example, a change in employee cost, even without a total loss in coverage, can be considered a loss of coverage under COBRA. We cannot advise which is appropriate for an employer’s plan or situation and recommend speaking to your own tax or benefits counsel on this subject.
Q: My employees don’t need their Commuter Benefits at this time. How can they make changes to their accounts?
 
A: Commuter Benefits plans (mass transit and parking) allow for pre-tax payroll contributions to be increased, reduced, or stopped at any time. If participants don't need to use the benefit, they can choose to not contribute for a period of time. They will still have access to any unused funds as long as they remain an active employee in the plan.
 
Q: Are participants able to receive a refund for transit passes they have already purchased?
 
A: Several transit authorities have already updated their policies regarding refunds. For more information, review the Commuter section of the Participant section of this site. We recommend the participant reach out to their local transit authority for more information on refunds.
 

Q: What is the CARES Act?

A: The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. It permanently reinstates coverage of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medicines as eligible for reimbursement from HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs without need for a prescription. For more on the CARES Act, click here.

Q: Will the Discovery Benefits debit card work for eligible OTC items and other expenses added through the CARES Act?

A: SIGIS and merchants are updating their eligible expense lists in order for these products to be approved by benefits debit cards, such as the Discovery Benefits debit card. SIGIS made its updated list (which includes OTC drugs and medicines) available for merchants on April 13, 2020. Our debit card will work on these new eligible OTC expenses at merchants once the merchant has downloaded the updated list. Each merchant will likely do this at some point in the next 30 days. If your debit card does not work on one of these products, you can still submit these claims through your online account, the Benefits Mobile App by Discovery Benefits or by mail/fax. To learn more about a few new OTC expenses that are eligible, click here.

Q: How can my employees be reimbursed for these new eligible expenses now prior to the debit card being able to approve them?

A: Employees can submit claims for eligible over-the-counter products and other new eligible expenses incurred on or after January 1, 2020 via their online account or mobile app.

Q: What materials are available for employers to send to their employees regarding new eligible expenses?

A: We have an email template available for you to help you communicate these changes to your employees. We will also be posting information in the consumer online account with information about the new eligible expenses.

Q: Can we extend our run-out period to allow our employees more time to submit claims?

A: The rules under EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 require you to give participants additional time after the COVID-19 national emergency is declared over to submit HRA claims for any plan year that has a run-out period ending during the relevant timeframe (March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the end of the COVID-19 national emergency).

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