On December 2, 2021, President Joe Biden made comments announcing the White House’s plan for combating COVID-19 and the emerging new variant, Omicron. As part of the nine-step plan, President Biden announced an initiative that would require private health insurers to reimburse covered individuals for the cost of at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests during the public health emergency. Both employer-sponsored group health plans and health insurers would have to reimburse for the tests. For those without private insurance, at-home tests would be distributed through community sites, such as health centers and rural clinics, in addition to federally supported free testing sites.
Beyond the president’s remarks, the Biden administration has not put in place a set policy, although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Labor, and U.S. Department of the Treasury are expected to issue joint guidance on or before January 15, 2022. Spokespeople for health insurance companies have stated that they are awaiting such guidance from the administration on implementation, and they have noted that several issues will need to be considered during the guidance drafting period. Further, the White House announcement’s reference to “individuals” suggests that the initiative intends to address employees, as well as their spouses and dependents, under a plan.
President Biden’s announcement comes as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) emergency temporary standard (ETS) continues its legal battle in the courts and as many employers continue to prepare for compliance with the ETS.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.