Employment LawScene Alert: IRS Says Reduced-Cost or Free COVID-19 Testing or Treatment Won’t Prevent Individuals from Making or Receiving HSA Contributions

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In recent guidance, the IRS noted the “unprecedented public health emergency posed by COVID-19” (the disease that results from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus), and the need to remove potential administrative and financial barriers to COVID-19 testing and treatment under the health savings account (HSA) rules.

Issued on March 11, 2020, IRS Notice 2020-15 responds to employer uncertainty as to whether a health plan providing for reduced-cost COVID-19 testing—for individuals who have not yet met their annual deductibles—remains an HSA-compatible high-deductible health plan (HDHP).

That uncertainty arose from the recent wave of insurer and state announcements of the waiver of out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing (and, in some cases, for treatment). Cost-sharing waivers apply, as of this writing, in at least 32 states, including for most, but not all, insurers in Wisconsin. Insurers have agreed to waive cost sharing due, variously, to voluntary agreements by major insurers, state mandates, or state-insurer agreements.

No-cost COVID-19 testing will be required by all private health plans now that President Trump has signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

HSA-Compatible Coverage, Generally

As we described in a prior post, an HSA is a tax-favored account established to receive contributions from an employee, an employer, or both.

To be eligible to make (or receive) HSA contributions, an individual must be covered only under the HDHP and my not have any other coverage (including reduced-cost services), unless such other coverage is expressly permitted by the IRS.

Certain “preventive care” services are specifically permitted and are not considered to constitute “other” health coverage that would disqualify an individual from HSA eligibility. In July of 2019, the IRS expanded the list of “preventive care” to include fourteen additional items and services intended to prevent the worsening of certain chronic medical conditions.

HSA-Compatible Coverage Now Includes Coronavirus-related Services

The result of the newly-issued IRS Notice 2020-15 is that an individual who is covered by an HDHP will not lose eligibility to make (or receive) tax-favored HSA contributions merely because the HDHP permits pre-deductible COVID-19 testing and treatment with reduced (or no) employee cost-sharing. HSA-eligible individuals may continue to contribute to an HSA regardless of whether the HDHP offers, or the individual receives, a reduced-cost or no-cost COVID-19 test or treatment.

Be Aware That:

  • As in the past, any vaccination costs continue to count as preventive care and can paid for by the plan at any time during the year, without regard to whether the deductible has been met.
  • As recently confirmed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, the costs of certain COVID-19 treatments and services, including testing, isolation, quarantine, and vaccination, are generally covered as essential healthcare benefits under Affordable Care Act rules for individual and small group health plans.
  • Self-funded group health plans are not required to waive COVID-19 cost-sharing under the state mandates or insurer agreements (but are impacted under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act).

The text of the IRS Notice is available here.

The attorneys of the Labor & Employment Group of O’Neil, Cannon, Hollman, DeJong & Laing are actively monitoring COVID-19 developments and are available to assist employers with related employment law and employee benefit plan compliance matters.


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