Corraling an Unprecedented, Multi-Faceted Threat

Managing risks has never been more vital to a comany’s prospsects for success.


By Rich Reda


Managing risks has never been more vital to a company’s prospects for success.

It’s possible that the concept of managing risk—legal, operational, even physical risk to your employees—has never in our working lifetimes presented itself on more fronts, with more imposing deadlines, than with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business owners who successfully unpack the dizzying number of considerations will safeguard their workers and be best-positioned to get back on a growth track once the public health threat has been contained. Until then, here are just a few of the many important things to think about.

Health-care benefits. Congress has passed a requirement for all plans (insured, self-funded, grandfathered and not) to cover the cost tp coronavirus testing (the test and related visit). Our actuaries estimate the cost of covering the test to be a 0.6 percent increase to plan cost.

A few carriers are extending the 100 percent benefit for  coronavirus treatment. Depending on the carrier, self-funded plans can opt-out or opt-in. Some carriers are also waiving copays or cost sharing for all telemedicine visits, even if unrelated to coronavirus. The IRS has confirmed waiving the member’s cost share for coronavirus testing and treatment is HSA-compatible, but it has not sanctioned paying all telemedicine visits, regardless of the reason, below the high deductible. Some carriers are also waiving early refill limits on maintenance medications.  Self-funded plans can opt out or opt in.

Workplace safety. By now, employers should be familiar with best practices regarding the need for environmental cleaning (workstations, countertops, doorknobs); supplies like hand sanitizer, tissues with no-touch receptacles for disposal, and disinfectant wipes for employees; and creating isolation areas for anyone showing symptoms at work.

For employers who are shifting to a remote work force, they should be aware of work comp exposure in this situation and educate employees on safe working environment. 

It’s vital for business owners and their teams to learn the true scope of the threats and what must be done to contain them.

In addition, there are new digital risks to every enterprise, especially those who have dispersed their employees to work from home. To reduce your exposure there,  alert employees to potential cyber or privacy threats, and reinforce the messaging you may already have about the need to avoid clicking links in unsolicited emails. As always, beware of email attachments.

The phishing attacks are picking up the pace, so be sure employees are using trusted, verified sources, such as legitimate, government Web sites, for up-to-date, fact-based information about the coronavirus. Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, or respond to email solicitations for this information.

At a time of increased social need, it’s important to verify a charity’s authenticity before making donations. Review the Federal Trade Commission’s page on Charity Scams for more information.

Infectious-disease policies. Employers can medically examine employees if there is reasonable belief the employee poses a direct threat to others due to their medical condition. COVID-19 has been designated as a pandemic, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidance allowing employers to measure an employee’s body temperature during a pandemic.

The guidance is written with influenza in mind, but it is equally applicable now. Employers can quarantine or send employees home if they have a reasonable belief the person presents a risk to the workplace. The CDC, adds this warning: “To prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, use only the Risk Assessment and Public Health Management Decision Making to determine risk of COVID-19. Do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin and be sure to maintain confidentiality of people with confirmed COVID-19.”

Inform employees if they may have been exposed to the virus at work (without revealing the source), document a process for reporting absences and exposures, inform supervisors of their responsibilities to report potential exposures, educate them about quarantine procedures and remind them about changes to leave policies and new restrictions on travel and meetings.

Employees, as well, bear some of the responsibilities for helping contain the virus by following workplace requirements, such as refraining from coming to work if they present symptoms and informing  HR if they have been to a high-risk destination or have potentially been exposed to the coronavirus.

These only scratch the surface of the challenges confronting business executives in the face of this global threat. Until public-health officials have declared the spread of the pandemic under control, and begin to authorize operations  to start up again at businesses designated a “non-essential,” it’s vital that owners and their management team spend the time to understand the scope of the threats involved.  

About the author

Rich Reda is a member of the 40 Under Forty class of 2010 and president of Benefits Communication Insourcing for Lockton Comanies.

P | 816.960.9000

E | rreda@lockton.com