March 30, 2020
These are unprecedented times. As the world grapples with the effects of the COVID-19 virus, information and protocols are changing rapidly. However, one thing that is not changing is our commitment to you and your team. We are here to provide you with the support that you need to get through these challenging times. The information contained here is of general nature – always consult your own contract for details.
Reduction of Hours Worked – we understand that it is not business as usual right now. If you have reduced staff hours so that they now fall below the minimum hours required to be eligible for the group plan, most insurance companies will grant an exception to continue coverage.
Earnings-based Benefits – Insurance companies will continue to bill premium and pay claims based on the earnings reported. If you decide you want to reduce the coverage and premium due to reduced wages or hours, you must report the new figures to your insurance company.
Employee Layoffs – most contracts include a layoff provision for up to 6 months. If your contract does not provide one, it can be added retro-actively to capture employees impacted by this crisis. There is no rate impact for having a layoff provision. It allows you to continue benefits on a premium paying basis for a set amount of time due to temporary layoff. Some plans will exclude disability coverage during the layoff period.
Premium Payments – when you’ve been forced to reduce business or close up shop altogether, making ends meet can be challenging. Most insurance providers are extending the grace period to make premium payments from 31 days to 60 days.
Suspension of Benefits – if you decide that maintaining the cost of the plan is too onerous at this time, you can opt to suspend the plan for a period of time (depending on your provider) This would mean that certain benefits would cease but there would be no penalty or ramifications when the plan was later reinstated. Note that claims incurred during the suspension will not be considered eligible even after the plan has been reinstated.
Short-Term Disability – if your plan includes a short-term disability benefit, it will cover COVID-related illnesses. If an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 or has not tested positive but exhibits symptoms preventing them from working, the STD plan will cover the absence. However, STD plans will not pay if an employee opts not to work due to fear, public health advice, or self-isolation because these are not medical events. In most cases, insurance companies are waiving the doctor’s statement that should accompany a claim. Instead you will be asked to submit a Plan Member Confirmation of Illness form.
If you do not have a STD plan in place, the insurance companies are putting a hold on all amendment requests to avoid an anti-selection situation.
Prescriptions – to avoid a prescription shortage the Canadian Pharmacy Association has recommended limiting supply to 30 days unless more is clinically justified. This has been supported by the Canada Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) and many plans are restricting prescriptions to a 30 days supply.
Travel – the Canadian Government states Canadians should avoid all non-essential travel but if there is a member who must travel, they should confirm insurance coverage prior to departure. Coverage varies by insurance provider so always verify coverage with your GMS-HUB account manager or broker or contact your insurance company directly.
EI –Sickness Benefits – EI will provide financial support to those who cannot work because they have COVID-19. The usual one week waiting period will be waived.
EI – Regular Benefits – employees can collect EI if laid off due to the COVID-19 crisis.
For more information about government support visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
EAP – Understandably stress runs high in times of crisis – there is a lot of uncertainty, fear, financial worries, health care worries of loved ones, coordination of child care, etc. An employee assistance plan is a great resource for your managers and staff members alike. Remember to refer them to your program. If you do not have one in place, you can set one up any time. Just contact us.
HUB International has set up a microsite to assist all clients with COVID-19 related issues. We hope you find these resources helpful.
Information in this bulletin is current as of March 25th.
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