In the early days of the pandemic, the use of telehealth programs grew exponentially as virtual visits extended the reach of providers and allowed patients access to their care team from the safety of their homes. Historically, the “no first-dollar coverage” rule that applies to high deductible health plans (“HDHPs”) has been a barrier to implementing and expanding low-cost telehealth programs, and providing pre-deductible telehealth coverage to employees prevents them from being eligible for a health savings account (“HSA”). However, the 2020 CARES Act allowed plan sponsors the option to provide telehealth at no cost to participants enrolled in an HDHP without negatively impacting the participant’s eligibility to make or receive HSA contributions. This initial optional relief expired on December 31, 2021, but was reinstated effective April 1, 2022, by the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2022. This reinstatement/extension is set to expire on December 31, 2022, though many experts and health professionals are calling for permanent adoption, arguing that telehealth programs have increased access to healthcare and helped bridge gaps of healthcare inequity. Note that this reinstatement does not apply retroactively back to January 1, 2022, so there is a three-month gap in the relief and the HDHP deductible would apply for those three months in order to remain HSA-eligible.
Health plan sponsors wishing to take advantage of this relief for the remainder of 2022 should review and update their plan documents and SPDs and provide plan participant notices accordingly. If you have any questions regarding how this might relate to your health plan, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.