To Our Valued Clients and Partners,

This is our eighth weekly COVID-19 update. Since our update last Friday, nearly 15,000 more Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19. The United States accounts for 35.1% of the reported COVID-19 global fatalities. Every one of us is personally invested in the rapid research and development of new COVID-19 diagnostic tests, antibody tests, treatments, and a future vaccine, all of which are accelerating at a pace previously unseen. At HMA, we’re backing local research (read more about it here ) and we are committed to helping our clients and our community return to work and access needed care safely and effectively. We will get through this together .

We want to share a few updates to help your business understand the road ahead. Today's topics include:
 
  • $484 billion and more to come?
  • Proclamations & regulatory orders vs health plans – Options for stability in unstable times
  • The heated debate over when and how to return to work
$484 billion and more to come?
Bipartisan approval on Capital Hill delivered another $484 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding this week. Nearly 16 million small businesses secured a total of $349 billion in Payment Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans, draining the funding appropriations from the first coronavirus relief stimulus bill in just 13 days. Many lenders already have thousands of small businesses on waitlists ready to tap into this week’s second round of $310 billion in PPP funding, $60 billion of which will go specifically to smaller lenders. The Small Business Administration announced today that they will resume accepting Paycheck Protection Program applications from participating lenders on Monday, April 27, 2020 at 10:30am EDT. For more information visit the Small Business Administration's PPP website.
 
The purpose of the PPP is to keep employees on employers’ payrolls in anticipation of returning to work. Loan forgiveness is conditional. The US Treasury published forgiveness, interest, and term guidance for PPP borrowers. Full loan forgiveness is conditioned on a full return to work of all staff and salary levels by June 30th. Accessing PPP funding does not require changes to your health plan. 
 
The remaining $174 billion in COVID-19 relief funding approved this week will be allocated; $60 billion for Small Business Administration disaster assistance loans and grants, $75 billion in grants to hospitals overwhelmed by a rush of COVID-19 patients, and $25 billion to bolster coronavirus testing, a core piece of any plan to restart the U.S. economy and safely return to work. The Centers for Disease Contol and Prevention announced yesterday that states would receive $631 million to support local testing and contact tracing efforts.
 
Proclamations & regulatory orders vs health plans –
Options for stability in unstable times
Navigating the quagmire of shifting employer mandates that HR professionals have to deal with can be daunting in these challenging times. Understanding how these orders interact with your Health Plan’s benefit coverage and how best to extend coverage under the Plan in a way that aligns with varying State Proclamations may seem like Groundhog Day on steroids. Just when you thought you understood and had a strategy figured out, along comes another order and you’re right back at square one. Constantly amending Plan terms is not an effective use of critical HR resources.

HMA believes there is a better way to ensure that Health Plans can weather shifting regulatory orders with short-term impacts. Drafting Health Plans in a way that will automatically trigger additional coverage or extended eligibility with a built-in and automatic sunset provision is a quick, simple, and effective way to lessen administrative burdens and ensure that your Plan is designed with maximum flexibility to accommodate and align with emergent mandates when you and your members need it most.

To support our clients, HMA has drafted our standard SPD language to include two new standard provisions designed to achieve stability and reduce the need for amendments in times such as these. One provision is focused on enhanced flexibility for Approved Leaves of Absence Due to Furlough, which provides maximum flexibility for extended leaves resulting from state or federal orders for up to 6 months. The second is a General Provision that is designed to immediately bring the Plan into compliance with all applicable state or federal emergency orders or proclamations. This new provision will automatically amend the Plan to conform to applicable orders or coverage mandates during the period that such order is deemed enforceable, with an auto-revert feature that returns the Plan to pre-emergency order coverage and terms.

One thing is clear, that as difficult as this time is, it will not be the last time that we will face natural disasters or future public emergencies. Now is the time to ensure Health Plans can weather those events with resilience.  Contact your Account Manager if you are interested in updating your SPD with these new provisions.
The heated debate over when and how to return to work
As of this writing, stay-at-home orders are set to expire within a week in 17 states. Alaska and Georgia begin phased reopenings today, Colorado and Montana begin on Monday, and Tennessee reopens on May 1 st. Governors from six Midwestern states including Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kentucky joined in a pact to reopen their regional economy in phases beginning as early as next week. Many public health officials voiced serious concern this week that some states are easing restrictions too soon and warned of a return coronavirus outbreak in the fall.

In contrast, governors from Northeastern and West Coast states have also formed pacts that outline their safe return to work criteria. Comprehensive testing and a data-driven phasing approach are cornerstones of these plans.
Governors throughout the Pacific Northwest had an active week announcing phased reopening plans. Today, Washington’s Governor Inslee announced a plan to allow current construction projects to be completed in a safe and responsible way, this just days after announcing a COVID-19 recovery plan the state. Oregon’s Governor Brown released her Reopening Oregon Framework on April 20th. Earlier this week, the State of Utah released a contact tracing app called “ Healthy Together” in conjunction with a plan to increase testing. Both Utah and Oregon announced plans to lift bans on elective procedures, Utah began its limited lifting on April 22nd and Oregon will lift its ban on May 1st. Idaho’s Governor Brad Little announced his plan for conditional and phased reopening of the state beginning May 1st.
At HMA, we announced to our employees yesterday that we will continue working from home through at least the end of May. We are actively working on our plan to return to work and appreciate the complexities of developing a return to work plan that is unique to each employer’s situation. The good news is we seamlessly moved all of our employees home in mid-March and they are all working productively to support you and your needs. We’re working hard to ensure our move back to our office, upon re-opening, is equally successful.
 
We’re Here for You  
Our focus, dedication, and support remain steadfast as we navigate these unique times with you. Thank you for your continued trust in our organization. We hope you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy. Please reach out to your Account Manager if you have any questions or if there’s anything we can do to help. 
 
 
Best Regards, 
 
Lindsay Harris  
Chief Growth Officer 
HMA - Proving What’s Possible in Healthcare ®