When 2020 began, it’s safe to say no one could have predicted all that was to come.

As individuals and organizations, we all came together to quickly pivot to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe. As we look back over the year, organizations and legislation has also changed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, here is a brief overview of some of those changes.

CARES Act

With the passage of the CARES Act in March 2020, additional over the counter (OTC) products and feminine hygiene products are now eligible to be purchased using a medical spending account, such as a health savings account (HSA). Prior to the passage of the act, some of these items were only eligible for reimbursement with a prescription. From pain relievers to baby rash creams, the updated list of eligible expenses is now available.

Some of the new eligible expenses include:

  • Tampons, pads, and liners
  • Cold, cough, and flu medicine
  • Allergy and sinus medicine
  • Pain relievers
  • Digestive aids and laxatives
  • Baby rash ointments and creams

For employees that have unused funds  in their flexible spending accounts (FSA), a medical spending account that does may not allow funds to be rolled over to the next year, reviewing the list of eligible expenses can be an easy way to put their dollars to good use.

Open Enrollment Goes Digital

It goes without saying that HR staff and brokers have been extremely busy navigating a new world of remote workforces, revised benefits and guidelines, as well as creating pandemic processes, policies and communications. With open enrollment wrapping up for many organizations, many employees have found themselves gaining open enrollment information virtually, as employers move to digital communications to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

While the pandemic required companies to pivot how they present information during open enrollment, to be sure, employees’ appetites for digital communication had already been increasing prior to the pandemic. In fact, in a recent survey, employees responded that they prefer email, online benefits portals, and mobile apps versus brochures/paper handouts and in person information sessions. And many Further clients have found the new means of electronic and virtual open enrollment to be very successful, in fact, there have been reports of higher employee participation than in year’s past. Employers and brokers should continue to evaluate not only the message during open enrollment but also how it is being delivered in the right medium and how to continue to reach employees through these channels in the future.

open enrollment went more digital in 2020 along with remote workers

Exploring COVID-19 Eligible Expenses

With a hyper focus on staying healthy, employees may be wondering what COVID-19 related preventative purchases are eligible expenses under their medical saving accounts – both flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health spending accounts (HSA).

As of now, surgical masks, disinfectant wipes, and disposable gloves, are not eligible expenses. In some instances, hand sanitizer may be considered an eligible purchase if the product contains at least 60% alcohol and is considered to be antibacterial. Items like thermometers, cough syrup, and aspirin are eligible expenses for which employees can use their medical spending accounts.

We’ve all shown how adaptive we can be in 2020. As we continue to navigate through COVID-19, its impacts on our work life and the changing legislation it has fostered, Further will continue to keep you updated so we can collectively help people spend wisely on their health care whenever they need it.

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