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Federal guidance enables employers to mandate workers get COVID-19 vaccine

by Robert King | Dec 18, 2020 1:15pm

New guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allows employers to require workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations, which has major implications for providers.

The guidance released earlier this week outlines the applicability of equal opportunity laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII. It details how employers should handle COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

The guidance comes less than a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and could grant similar authority to another vaccine Friday from Moderna.

The guidance would have an impact on healthcare providers as facilities often require workers to get other types of vaccinations such as a flu shot or measles.

States are primarily vaccinating frontline healthcare workers first after receiving guidance from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel.

Covered California Extends IFP Enrollment To Uninsured Through August

People who are uninsured and eligible to enroll in health care coverage through Covered California are now able to sign up through the end of August.

The extension of the special-enrollment deadline comes during ongoing uncertainty in the lives and livelihoods of Californians as public health officials fight against the spread of COVID-19. It also applies to people who enroll in off-exchange plans, outside of Covered California, to ensure that people enrolling in the entire individual market in California will have access to coverage during the pandemic.

“Health insurance is just a phone call away, and our agents and staff stand ready to help people get the coverage they need.” Get free and confidential assistance over the phone, in a variety of languages, from one of our certified agents at (877) 344-1744.

At Ascend Benefit Solutions Insurance Services, the health and well-being of our clients, associates, and communities is our top priority. We understand the concern and uncertainty you may be experiencing surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) and are committed to being responsive to the needs of our clients and associates as the situation evolves.

We have now begun implementing the first steps of that plan which includes having our employees work remotely as much as possible in order to reduce the risk of human-to-human transmission of this virus in our workplaces.

If you have any questions, please contact our Business Customer Support Team at 877-344-1744 or at [email protected]. And above all else, stay safe and take care of yourself, your family and your friends.

Los Angeles allowing retail stores, churches, drive-ins, and more to reopen 

Although Los Angeles leads the state in COVID-19 cases and deaths, Mayor Garcetti announced on Tuesday, May 26 that in-store shopping and religious services could resume in the City of Los Angeles on Wednesday so long as stores and religious institutions followed the county’s guidelines. Per state regulations, in order for counties to reopen, there must be no more than 20 COVID-19 hospitalizations on any single day in the and fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days. A closed LA County Board Supervisors meeting determined that the county met those standards.

Retail stores can operate at 50% capacity, while places of religious worship may operate at 50% capacity. Community pools, drive-in theaters, and flea markets can also reopen. The City of LA published safety protocols and best practices for businesses to follow when they reopen.

Help Your Small Business Stay Healthy with a Coronavirus Crisis Communications Plan

By Rieva Lesonsky

Mar 27, 2020

For businesses of all sizes, but especially for small businesses without large cash cushions, the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be enormous, affecting cash flow, sales, jobs and business survival rates.

As a small business owner, I know how, where and when I communicate with my clients during this crisis will greatly influence how my business will fare during the crisis and when it is over.

Take a moment to go over this small business crisis communications checklist to help your business remain healthy read more

Our Carriers Respond to COVID-19 Concerns

Ascend Benefit Solutions is aware of the concerns over the Coronavirus outbreak that you and your clients may have. Please click on any respective carrier's name below for a full explanation of their current position regarding this virus.



Anthem will cover the care you get if you’re diagnosed as having COVID-19. For those who have fully insured, individual, Medicare and Medicaid plans, it’ll also waive your out-of-pocket expenses for the focused test used to diagnose COVID-19.


Aetna will waive co-pays for all diagnostic testing related to COVID-19.

      Blue Shield

Starting immediately, Blue Shield is waiving all cost-sharing and any prior approval for COVID-19 testing.


Cigna will cover COVID-19 testing similar to a preventive benefit for fully-insured and Administrative Services Only (ASO) plans, waiving co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance for customers.

       Health Net

Health Net is waiving cost-sharing for medically-necessary COVID-19 screenings, tests and doctor office, urgent care and outpatient hospital (including emergency departments) visits.


As a member of Kaiser Permanente, you will not have to pay for costs related to COVID-19 screening or testing.

         LA Care

If you are an L.A. Care member and can't reach your doctor, you may be eligible to use their telehealth benefit.


Oscar is waiving cost-sharing for diagnostic testing for COVID-19, and encouraging members to use telemedicine free-of-charge for them to use and find out if testing i​s right for them or if other follow up care is needed.

March 14, 2020                                                                              

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Business Resources 

SBA Guidance & Assistance for Small Businesses

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has posted information regarding loan programs and guidance for businesses:

Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

CDC Guidance & Prevention Protocols for Businesses

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has issued COVID-19 guidance for businesses and is updating them as new developments occur.

Please refer to the following links for the most up-to-date information about COVID-19:

Coronavirus: A checklist for employers

Here are a few actions companies and their HR departments should take to ensure they’re prepared for a potential outbreak.

By Emily Payne | March 10, 2020

Some companies have found that they’re ill-equipped to provide the technology and resources employees need to do their jobs remotely. Is yours? 

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus continues to grow by the hour, and at this point, it looks unlikely that the United States will be able to contain the spread of the virus. It’s impacting nearly every aspect of our economy, from the stock markets to airline and cruise industry, health care sector and even sports events.

By now, your company has likely sent out at least one memo to employees outlining the actions you’re taking in response to the threat of a coronavirus outbreak. If not, well, you’re running behind.

“The coronavirus is a wake-up call for companies to review their strategies, policies and procedures about safeguarding employees, customers and operations in this and future epidemics,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, co-leader, North American Health Management practice, Willis Towers Watson. “From boosting communication to increasing access to hand sanitizers, employers need a plan of action to protect their workers and reduce the risk of business interruption.”

Here are a few actions companies and their HR departments should take to ensure they’re prepared for a potential outbreak.

Disaster preparedness plan

Coronavirus has taken hold in Seattle, affecting one of the country’s most famous employers: Amazon. The tech giant has instructed its Seattle-based employees to work from home. But not all companies are in a position to transition their operations to employees’ homes and instead may face the possibility of having to shut down or significantly cut back on production.

If this is a possibility, what circumstances will lead to a full or partial company shutdown? Moreover, what will it mean for employees? If you haven’t already, now is the time to assemble your department heads and map out a plan to manage potential disruptions in staffing and productivity.

“An effective preparedness plan would include how to keep their employees informed and safeguarded, to the best extent possible, while managing continuous business operations as well as interactions with the public and supply chain,” advises Bobbi Kloss, director of human capital management for the Benefit Advisors Network. “Employers may want to look at their disaster preparedness plan which would provide considerations for maintaining staffing and business relationships with limited or no access to facilities. Like any policy development, employers should bring together a team with members from each level of the organization to ensure that all group considerations are being considered.”

Continuation of employee benefits

In the event that your business has to close down or reduce operations, it’s not just the company’s finances that will take a hit. Many employees fear they can’t afford the financial stress of missing work due to illness. According to a WTW survey, employers in China and Asia are still paying their furloughed employees, as well as covering their cost of employee benefits.

Whether workers are out due to illness or a workplace shutdown, employers should work with them to ensure financial stability, addressing options such as emergency funds or wage advancement. This is also a great time to highlight the list of voluntary benefits employees have at their disposal, including employee assistance plans (EAPs) and short-term disability leave, among others.

Travel restrictions

According to a recent survey from Willis Towers Watson, many companies are canceling international travel as a key measure to control the spread of the virus. Virtual meetings are a viable alternative if you have the technology in place.

Even if you don’t have employees traveling internationally, it’s a good idea to track employees’ travel plans (both work and personal) and identify those individuals most at risk of acquiring the virus.

Remote work arrangements

The spread of the virus has sparked what many are calling the “largest remote-work experiment.” According to Willis Towers Watson, some 46 percent of employers are implementing work-from-home policies. For many employers and employees, this presents new opportunities and challenges.

Some companies have found that they’re ill-equipped to provide the technology and resources employees need to do their jobs remotely. But fear not: tech and service providers such as Microsoft and Google are offering free services to help make working from home more attainable.

In anticipation of increased remote work, take a survey of current capabilities. Ask:

  • How many employees currently work from home?
  • What resources would those who don’t need to effectively work from home?
  • What in-office resources and databases do they need to access on a regular basis?
  • How you will handle access to secure information?
  • What check-in procedures will you have between managers and their employees?

“Successfully embracing remote work requires leadership support to create a culture that encourages this type of flexibility,” Cisco Webex writes in a blog post. “Set forth policies for aspects of remote work from the beginning. Focus on things like the hours you expect them to be available, standards for keeping their security software current, tools they should be leveraging, and more. Be clear about your expectations but willing to listen to employee feedback.”

Insurance awareness

You go through it every open enrollment season: explaining the difference between premiums, copays and deductibles as you encourage employees to choose the health plan that’s right for them. Even with many insurers waiving the costs associated with seeking medical care for coronavirus, consumers (especially those who haven’t interacted with the health care system in a while) are still going to have a lot of questions.

Whether they’re already coming to the HR department with their questions or you’re looking to be proactive, here are some questions consumers should be asking (and able to answer), according to Kim Buckey, senior vice president of client services at DirectPath:

  • How the plan works—what is your deductible, what are office visit copays (if applicable), and where do you stand towards meeting your deductible? If you have an FSA, HRA or HSA, what funds do you have available to spend?
  • If you don’t have a regular doctor, which local urgent care offices, retail clinics (e.g., WalMart, Target or CVS) and hospitals are in-network for your plan?
  • Does your plan offer telemedicine?
  • Will you need a doctor’s note to return from work if you were told to self-isolate or were hospitalized?

Will the company cover any or all of the costs if you (or a family member) are confirmed to have coronavirus?

In addition, says Buckey, “If you ARE hospitalized, make sure you (or your representative) keep track of any tests ordered, medications provided, and providers who see you. That information may come in handy when you receive the bill.”