If I had told you one year ago that your life would change with one vaccination, would you have believed me? I sit here amazed at the year that we have had. 2020 has been difficult, strange, and amazing all at the same time.
As 2021 begins, I appreciate the distance we have covered as Americans. I truly believe that even though there was difficulty and strife in 2020, we are better for it. I see growth and acceptance where I did not see it before. I see scientific advances that will be studied and used for years to come. A big thank you to all the medical workers who are on the front line, the scientists that have been working around the clock, and the essential workers that are keeping our families safe and fed. Who has become a hero in your life? I did not previously grasp the importance of grocery store clerks before this year, but now I value them!
As Employers your next question is going to surround vaccinations for COVID-19. Employees will start asking questions, and companies should start developing a plan. Here are some things to consider!
At this point two vaccinations have been proven effective and approved for distribution for COVID-19. Most experts expect others to be approved this year. As the vaccines have been developed and tested, they have been proven safe and effective up to 94%. One new method, MRNA, has have been in development over the last several years. We will probably see other advancements with treatment in other areas that also use MRNA!
As a company you will want to consider the message that you send to your employees about vaccination. There is still a lot to learn, but a healthy culture of your company comes from the top down.
Click Here - Want to know more about how a vaccine is approve?
Coverage on your Plan
Due to COVID pandemic and the CARES Act, Congress, DOL, HHS and IRS have all issued guidance regarding mandatory coverage of vaccines on your group health plan. On December 12th, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued recommendations on the distribution of vaccinations, which was the final step to ensure coverage on your plan.
The CARES act earlier this year required that vaccinations be covered as a preventive service on all plans, except grandfathered plans. I have had discussions with most local carriers here in Utah and have discovered that they will most likely be covering them as preventive care even in grandfathered plans. We will wait for official notification on all plans!
There is a possibility that State or Federal programs will pay for the vaccine. There are some reports that the State of Utah may fund the vaccine program if the Federal Government does not announce new funding.
Generally, for anything to be covered on your medical plan, especially for preventive care, it is always recommended that you stay in-network. Some medical plans do not cover preventive care at all if you go out of your network. If there is wide access to the vaccinations, it should be fine, right? Well as you have heard the roll out of vaccinations is limited at first, and not widely available.
So, what can you plan on? Know that it will be covered. IF the vaccination is not available in network – your medical carrier will be able to assist you in finding somewhere to get the vaccination. Stay in contact with your Primary Care Provider for more information. There may be vaccinations available through local health offices, and “Pop-Up” clinics for vaccinations only. As I have spoken with several of the major carriers, they hope to a have wide policy for network, perhaps with temporary clinics. More to come as we get more vaccine doses and direction from the State.
Click Here for Utah COVID Vaccine Resources
Putting together your plan
Here are suggestions for considerations at work. You will want to establish communication with your employees about your vaccination policy. We do not have all the information yet, so there is no urgency on this. This is really something to keep in mind, at this point. There may be more options that come, but here are a few possibilities:
1. On-site Vaccine Clinic at your place of work: You can pay nursing companies to come administer the vaccine on site, once available, like employer sponsored Flu Clinic. Sometimes carriers can sponsor these, but we do not know yet if carriers will do the same for COVID-19 vaccinations.
2. Combined Clinic with other employers in your area: There may be other employers near you that you have relationships with. This may help make it quicker and lower in cost for all to get a vaccine.
3. Medical Carrier sponsored clinics: Hospital networks and medical carriers will most likely offer some easy access clinics for their members to attend. Some have talked about drive-through-vaccinations, or partnerships with CVS or Walgreens. I am sure we will hear more about these options.
4. Paid Time off to go to Doctor and get a vaccine: Offering employees Paid Time Off to go and get a vaccination at the place of their choosing will help motivate many employees to be vaccinated, taking planning pressure off the company.
Can Employers Require Employees to be Vaccinated?
The EEOC has stated that an employer can require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. It’s not exactly clear cut, and many don’t recommend a requirement. There are some regulations to consider. If you have employees who cannot be vaccinated due to disability or religious belief, you cannot require them to get it. If the employee experiences an adverse reaction after the vaccination, a workers’ compensation claim may occur. Also, if an employee complains (like on social media) and more than two employees oppose the policy, they have protections in place from National Labor Relations Act.
You may also need to consider how you treat your at-home workers and your on-site workers. Morale may be affected if they are treated differently. It may work out better for you to encourage vaccination instead of requiring it.
Click Here for EEOC COVID-19 Resources
New Strain? Seems to be working
Experts tell us that virus always mutate. What about new strains of Coronavirus? Its hard to tell this early, but in India and UK as new strains of the virus appear, early results seem to show that the current vaccination is still effective. Vaccine developers tell us that it is easy to modify the vaccination if needed, and they will continue to monitor the strains that come.
Click Here for CNBC Article
Schedule of Distribution
Healthcare personnel, schools, first responders, long term care facilities, and Teachers can now get the Vaccine. Utah expects in March the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions will be able to get the vaccine, and estimated April – July for the remainder of most other Utahns. As new vaccinations are approved, this timeline will be adjusted!
Click Below for:
COVID-19 Compliance Considerations for Group Health Plans in 2021
Tuesday, January 12, 2021 2:00 p.m. ET / 11:00 a.m. PT
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has issued legislation affecting group health plan requirements and the Department of Labor (DOL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have issued guidance on requirements for group health plans as well as permissive changes group health plans may implement. This webinar will help employers understand their group health plan compliance obligations regarding COVID-19 as well as permissive changes and relief that employers may implement going forward.
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