Coronavirus Update Center


Small business owner? Here’s what you need to know about the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP):

Updated: April 3, 2020

  • The CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides relief for businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis. PPP authorizes up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses (with fewer than 500 employees) to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • All loan terms will be the same for every small business and loan amounts will be forgiven as long as:
    • The loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs, and most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs over the eight week period after the loan is made; and
    • Employee and compensation levels are maintained.
  • Payroll costs are capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee. Due to likely high subscription, it is anticipated that not more than 25% of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs. Loan payments will be deferred for 6 months.
  • When can small businesses apply?
    • Starting 4/3/2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll and other certain expenses through existing Small Business Administration (SBA) lenders.
    • Starting 4/10/2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll and other certain expenses through existing SBA lenders.
    • Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans as soon as they are approved and enrolled in the program.
  • The program is administered through the Small Business Administration (SBA). If you would like to learn more about the program, we encourage you to contact your banker to help you through the process.

 


Information on preparations for the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated: May 6, 2020

As the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to spread, many are concerned about the possible impacts to themselves and their families.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is closely monitoring the situation and has prepared contingency plans to ensure business operations continue to run smoothly in the event of a widespread outbreak.

These plans include:

  • Continuing to process claims electronically. (Please note that 99% of claims are processed electronically, so we do not anticipate any disruption to claims processing.)
  • Heavily utilizing telework to maintain staffing of critical business areas. We expanded our telework capabilities, and currently have almost 100% of the workforce working from home.

Effective March 1, 2020:

  • Families First Act, as amended by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act
    • As a result of the Families First Act, as amended by the CARES Act, both in-network and out-of-network diagnostic tests for COVID-19 and the related in-person or telehealth visit, emergency room visit, or urgent care visit must be covered at 100% with no member cost sharing. The benefits provided in the Families First Act/CARES Act are effective during the declared public emergency.

In addition, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has taken the following steps as a standard approach related to benefit coverage:

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama “Standard” COVID-19 Related Benefit Changes
    • In addition to what is required by the Families First Act/CARES Act above, telehealth is available to all members to allow in-network PPO providers to provide medically necessary services to members that can be appropriately delivered via telephone consultation. In addition to office visit consultations, telehealth also includes physical, speech, and occupational therapy (subject to provider capability), and behavioral health. This is applicable for members who wish to receive their care remotely and wish to limit their exposure. It can also serve as an initial screening for members who need to be tested for COVID-19.

      For plans that are not an HSA-qualified High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), telehealth services provided by in-network PPO providers will be covered at 100% with no member cost sharing regardless of the diagnosis code.

      For plans that are an HSA-qualified HDHP, telehealth services provided by in-network PPO providers must be filed with a COVID-19 related diagnosis as outlined by the CDC and American Medical Association in order to process at 100% with no member cost sharing. Telehealth services provided by in-network PPO providers and filed with a diagnosis code other than COVID-19 will be covered at the in-network benefit level and will be subject to applicable member cost sharing. Telehealth services provided by out-of-network non-PPO providers will be covered at the out-of-network benefit level.

    • In addition to what is required by the Families First Act/CARES Act above, if an in-network office visit, urgent care visit, emergency room visit, behavioral health visit, or telehealth service results in a claim being filed by the in-network PPO provider for any other service or supply rendered with a COVID-19 related diagnosis as outlined by the CDC and American Medical Association, that office visit, urgent care visit, emergency room visit, behavioral health visit, or telehealth service will be covered at 100% with no member cost sharing. Out-of-network services will be covered at the out-of-network benefit level.
    • More than one in-network office visit, urgent care visit, emergency room visit, behavioral health visit, or telehealth service for the same member incurred on the same day will be covered if the urgent care visit, emergency room visit, behavioral health visit, or telehealth service is rendered by in-network PPO providers and the claims are filed with a COVID-19 related diagnosis as outlined by the CDC and American Medical Association.
    • For both COVID-19 related visits and non-COVID-19 related visits, members who are admitted to an in-network hospital and test positive for COVID-19 will have no member cost sharing. Inpatient services will be covered at 100%. This benefit is effective through June 1, 2020.
    • For non-COVID-19 related visits, members who are admitted to an in-network hospital and test negative for COVID-19 will have member cost sharing. Inpatient services will be covered subject to applicable inpatient plan benefits.
  • Extended timeframes for COBRA, HIPAA, Claims and Appeals during the national emergency

    On April 28, 2020, the DOL and the IRS issued a joint notice to extend the following in timeframes applicable to group health plans during the COVID-19 Outbreak Period. For purposes of this joint notice, the COVID-19 Outbreak Period is defined as the period from March 1, 2020, through the date that is 60 days after the end of the COVID-19 national emergency, or another date announced jointly by the DOL/IRS Agencies as the “Outbreak Period.” Group health plans must disregard this Outbreak Period when calculating deadlines for members to exercise the following rights:

    • 30-day period (or 60-day period in certain circumstances) for an individual to request enrollment in a group health plan due to a HIPAA special enrollment event;
    • 60-day period for a qualified beneficiary to elect COBRA continuation coverage;
    • 30-day grace period for a qualified beneficiary to pay COBRA premiums;
    • 45-day period from election of COBRA continuation coverage to the date the first payment may be due;
    • Deadline by which a group health plan must provide a COBRA election notice to qualified beneficiaries;
    • Period within which a claimant may request an external review of a denied appeal; and
    • Date by which a claimant may file information to perfect a request for external review.
    • Period during which claimants may file a benefit claim under the plan’s claims procedure; and
    • Period within which claimants may file an appeal of a claim denial.

Please be assured that Blue Cross will continue to meet the needs of groups, members and providers even in the case of sustained spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. For additional Blue Cross information, please visit AlabamaBlue.com/Coronavirus. If you have questions, please contact your Account Executive, Sales Representative or Enrollment Services Representative.