Cassandra Labbees Quoted in “High Deductible Plans May Waive Cost-Sharing for Coronavirus Tests”

Modern Healthcare

Cassandra Labbees, Member of the Firm in the Employee Benefits practice, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in Modern Healthcare, in “High Deductible Plans May Waive Cost-Sharing for Coronavirus Tests,” by Shelby Livingston. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

The IRS released guidance that gives employers the green light to waive out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus testing for workers enrolled in high-deductible health plans.

The IRS released guidance on Wednesday that confirms employers may waive out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus testing and treatment for workers enrolled in high-deductible health plans.

Employers have been hesitant to eliminate cost-sharing for medical tests for COVID-19 for fear of running afoul of the law even as several states and dozens of private health insurers pledged affordable access to tests and treatment. The guidance is likely to allay employers' chief concerns. …

Typically, people enrolled in a high deductible health plan with a health savings account must pay all of their costs until they meet a deductible and coverage kicks in. Previous IRS guidance created an exception to that rule for certain preventive health services, such as vaccines and screenings for specific conditions, which the plans can pay for before the deductible is met.

The preventive services list includes some screening for infectious diseases, such as hepatitis or HIV, but doesn't explicitly include screening for the novel coronavirus.

In an interview ahead of the release of the new guidance, Cassandra Labbees, a partner at law firm Epstein Becker and Green, explained that IRS guidance tends to be specific and designed for the times; it may have been stretch for an employer to assume the preventive services exception would extend to coronavirus screening without confirmation from the federal government. While employers want to waive cost-sharing for the tests, she said, concrete guidance would provide them with the security they need to move ahead.