June 26, 2020
To Our Valued Clients and Partners,
This is our 13th and last COVID-19 exclusive update. As we move into renewal season we will have important information to share with you on topics beyond the scope of COVID-19. Next month we will transition to a client and partner newsletter format. We’ll have a COVID-19 update section in the newsletter and you can always visit the this page for our latest and historical COVID-19 specific updates.
This week, the US broke the single-day record for the number of new COVID-19 reported cases to date. Whether this is the anticipated second wave of the pandemic or a temporary surge, we know that these numbers are unsettling. Many clients are eager to ramp up operations as phased re-openings progress. At the same time, clients want to protect their people and their health plan dollars from exposure to the very real risks the coronavirus presents. We are here to help you navigate these risks.
Today's update topics include:
· HMA Open Arms Progam launches July 1st
· The CDC expands and updates the list of people at risk of severe COVID-19 illness
· The joint agencies clarify FFCRA and CARES Act implementation guidance
· Trends we are seeing
HMA Open Arms Program launches July 1st:
HMA recognizes that our clients and members are experiencing ongoing and unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety, and turmoil. Every day we hear first-hand about their very personal experiences during this pandemic. The coronavirus affects all of our members. Some members may see it as a mere disruption to their daily lives while other members experience it as a life-altering trauma. We continue to see an increasing volume of members in need of immediate intervention or de-escalation. We’ve been brainstorming for the last month on how best to help these members and we’ve designed a one-of-a-kind program to meet the need.
We are stepping forward to do our part, to do what’s right.
Starting July 1, 2020, we are launching the HMA Open Arms Program, expanding the scope of our Case Management services around mental and behavioral health. Think of it like a virtual hug, we do.
- Available to all members we serve – at no additional cost to the Plan or the member!
- Offers members emotional support in-the-moment when they call us in crisis
- Interdisciplinary intervention at the right level
- Education about community resources
- Immediate live telephonic assistance with a licensed therapist/counselor if needed
- Help with identifying the right type of resources and the best next steps for members
- Collaborative Case Management between HMA and our Open Arms Program partner, Cascade Centers.
As part of our COVID-19 Return to Work webinar series, Caitlin Plato, MA, CADC I, Counselor and Trainer at Cascade Centers, led a thoughtful discussion and shared some great tips for employers and people leaders about understanding and managing employee emotions through work reintegration. If you missed the webinar, it is available for viewing at your convenience here. Our next COVID-19 Return to Work webinar will be in late July. We’ll send out an invite after the Fourth of July holiday.
The CDC expands and updates the list of people at risk of severe COVID-19 illness
Yesterday, the CDC held a press conference warning people of all ages of the risk of severe illness as a result of the coronavirus infection. 47% of the over 2 million COVID-19 cases documented by the CDC are in people under age 44. Further, the CDC explained that their serological surveillance and various antibody studies indicate that the number of documented cases in the US may represent as little as 1 in 10 actual positive cases in the greater population. While this does mean that many people are experiencing asymptomatic infections, the CDC updated the list of people at risk of severe illness due to underlying conditions, regardless of age, to encompass as much as 60 percent of American adults. Another study published yesterday, found that pregnant women with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis were significantly more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to the intensive care unit, and receive mechanical ventilation than nonpregnant women; however, pregnant women were not at greater risk for death from COVID-19. (CDC, June 25, 2020)
The joint agencies clarify FFCRA and CARES Act implementation guidance
Yesterday, the joint agencies (DOL, HHS, and the Department of Treasury) published an update to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act implementation FAQ. The FAQ is now 18 pages. At a high-level, the new information does not mandate changes to our clients’ health plans. A few clarifications in the update will help answer some common questions that we receive:
- The FAQ clarifies that COVID-19 testing that is conducted for general workplace health and safety screening (for example, return to work programs) is not in scope for the CARES Act, and is not therefore a health plan or insurance plan expense, but an employer expense.
- The FAQ now explains that there is a temporary opportunity during the pandemic emergency for employers to provide some limited services like nurse line to non-benefit eligible employees and their dependents without triggering the full array of Group Health Plan compliance obligations.
Trends we are seeing
Despite the recent spikes in COVID-19 positive tests in the Pacific Northwest, we have not seen a similar spike yet in testing claims from our members. We have had a steady volume of COVID-19 testing claims for several months. Where we are seeing a surge is in the scheduling of elective procedures. Clearly, members have pent-up demand for procedures that were cancelled over the last three months. We anticipate significant demand for elective and deferred medical procedures from August to December of this year. We also expect (and encourage) members who had to cancel regular preventive care visits to reschedule those appointments now.
We are keeping an eye on the increasing case counts across the Pacific Northwest and outbreaks in specific employment sectors as phased re-opening bring more employees back to work. We are working closely with clients affected by outbreaks and with clients as they evaluate their return to work strategies.
Today, in Washington State masks become mandatory statewide in response to the recent spike in cases in some parts of the state. Yesterday, Utah’s Governor, Gary Herbert, approved mask mandates in Salt Lake and Summit counties, the effective date and further details are due out today. It will be interesting to see if Oregon and Idaho follow suit. Yesterday, the Portland Business Journal reported that Oregon saw a 40 percent rise in week-over-week COVID-19 new cases, and, according to the Idaho State Journal, Idaho experienced its largest single day of new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, June 24th.
Links to prior COVID-19 updates from HMA: