By Sherree L. Craig, CEBS
Bravo to the businesses continuing uninterrupted, but changed, right now.
As you may be struggling to maintain your footing in business, your employees need some assurances and an understanding of what might happen with their oh-so-important-now health benefits in the event of a reduction in their work hours, a temporary layoff, a furlough, or if a termination of employment becomes necessary.
• Maine Insurance Code Update. By order of Governor Mills, an employer may continue to insure employees during an interruption to their employment. If an employer chooses this option, this offer must be made to “all affected employees on a non-discriminatory basis.”
• COBRA/mini-COBRA. Federal law requires companies with 20 or more employees to offer continuous group health plan coverage to qualified beneficiaries for a certain period of time, depending on the qualifying event. In Maine, employees working for a company with fewer than 20 employees also have a continuation of coverage opportunity in the event of a temporary layoff. This mini-COBRA protection can extend for up to 12 months and can be paid by the employee or company. The insurance company should be notified of this status change, but the employee’s coverage will be maintained on your group bill. It is important to note that if your company is officially out of business, these options are no longer available.
• Healthcare.gov Special Enrollment Opportunity. Employees should be encouraged to review this chance to enroll on the Federal Healthcare Exchange in a timely manner. The loss of group health insurance is considered a qualifying event (unless for non-payment of premiums). This is the time to enroll and apply for subsidies. It must be done at the termination of the group health coverage or at the end of a COBRA election period. They cannot elect COBRA for a few months and then try to switch to the Exchange.
• MaineCare. Due to the expansion of MaineCare eligibility, many of your employees may find themselves eligible for this program. They may apply for coverage or check eligibility at www.maine.gov/mymaineconnection.
If you have questions about this topic, or other federal requirements for continuation of coverage during a medical leave, I encourage you to reach out to your insurance benefits professional.
Wishing you all the best for your health and success.