HEALS Act Includes Several AHPI-Advocated Provisions that Impact Employers

July 31, 2020

The Senate Republican COVID-19 bill includes a number of important health care provisions that may make it into the final legislation, including several provisions the American Health Policy Institute has been advocating for this year. 

The Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act—a combination of eight Senate bills— would:

  • Allow employers to offer telehealth as an excepted benefit to employees who are not full-time or do not qualify for their employer’s coverage;

  • Allow unused 2020 contribution amounts in Flexible Spending Accounts and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts to be rolled over into the 2021 plan year;

  • Allow employees with Health Savings Accounts to use employer on-site clinics (i.e., an eligible expense) through December 31, 2021; and

  • Create a limited refundable payroll tax credit equal to 50 percent of an employer’s “qualified employee protection expenses,” such as testing for COVID-19, protective personal equipment, cleaning supplies, and qualified workplace reconfiguration expenses.

The HEALS Act would also increase federal spending for testing, contact tracing, and surveillance ($16 billion), mental health and substance abuse services ($4.5 billion), and community health centers that will help address racial inequities ($7.6 billion).

A fix to surprise medical billing practices was not included in the GOP bill, but advocacy efforts to have the issue addressed in the final legislation continue.  The House-passed bill includes COBRA subsidies and a prohibition on balance billing for COVID-19 testing and treatment that could make it into the final measure.

Outlook:  Senate Republicans are not completely unified on some provisions in the HEALS Act and Democrats have declared the proposal a non-starter.  Congressional leadership has met with administration officials to air their differences and see where they agree, but talks are likely to continue for the next two or three weeks.