2020 CARES Act: Employee Benefits Update


President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act or CARES Act on Friday, March 27. This bill is intended to help Americans by providing some financial relief as we continue to face the coronavirus pandemic. We are especially happy to see these legislative changes provide greater flexibility for account holders.

Employees enrolled in certain spending accounts will see the following changes under the CARES Act:


OTC Medications

Over the counter (OTC) medications are now reimbursable under Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements and Health Saving Accounts without requiring a prescription or completing a Letter of Medical Necessity Form. This provision is retroactive to January 1, 2020. Previously, OTC items were repealed under the Affordable Care Act. The new CARES Act overturns that rule. Americans have wanted OTC items eligible for reimbursement for years; millions of account holders will welcome this news!


Menstrual Care Products

Menstrual care products are now reimbursable as eligible expenses, including tampons and pads. Please note: not all merchants will have newly eligible OTC/menstrual care products coded immediately for a point-of-sale debit card purchase. All items are under review and may take up to 6 weeks for merchant updates.


Telehealth Services

Health insurance plans can reimburse telehealth services pre-deductible without impacting Health Saving Account (HSA) eligibility. As a result, telehealth services will be covered for high deductible health plan (HDHP) participants with HSAs before participants have met their deductible. Please note: this provision is temporary and will expire on December 31, 2021.


CARES Act OTC Availability at Merchants

The new OTC eligibility will require the Special Interest Group for IIAS Standards (SIGIS) to review and update the inventory of eligible products and publish the list for merchant access. A non-profit corporation, SIGIS is responsible for the management of the inventory information approval system (IIAS). This helps ensure merchants are meeting the IRS requirements on reimbursable expenses. Currently, over 17,000 OTC items are reimbursable expenses under the IRS.  Merchants will need to update their systems to allow Benefit Card to work at the point-of-sale for OTC purchases. Industry experts anticipate this process may take six weeks or longer to complete; plan participants should anticipate updated systems may differ by merchant.

As more updates are available, we will continue to keep you informed.  If you have any questions, please contact P&A Group.

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