Press Release, March 26, 2020, Gov. Evers and Insurance Commissioner Urge Insurers to Allow Small Employers to Keep Furloughed Employees on Health Insurance

March 26, 2020

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Gov. Evers and Insurance Commissioner Urge Insurers to Allow Small Employers to Keep Furloughed Employees on Health Insurance

Madison, Wis. – At the direction of ​Governor Tony Evers, Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable called on Wisconsin health insurers to give small employers the option to keep employees who are furloughed or working fewer than 30 hours per week on employer-sponsored health insurance. Health insurers often have contracts with small employers to only insure employees who are considered “active status," meaning they work 30 or more hours per week. With the COVID-19 public health emergency requiring non-essential businesses to close, many employees working for small employers may be furloughed or work fewer than 30 hours per week. Insurers should allow small employers to continue paying the insurance premium for impacted employees if they can do so during Gov. Evers' Safer at Home order.

“We want every Wisconsinite to be able to access the care they need during this public health emergency," said Gov. Evers. “Insurers can help make that possible by giving small employers the flexibility they need to keep employees on their health insurance. It's going to take all of us working together to slow the spread of this disease and to keep our communities safe."

“As much as possible, we want to reduce the number of folks who are losing their health insurance. Everyone deserves access to affordable, high-quality health care and insurance is a big part of that," said Commissioner Afable. “We know that small businesses are doing their best to retain employees even if it means reducing hours or furloughing them. But these changes shouldn't mean an employee loses access to their health insurance. We're urging insurers to work in partnership with Wisconsin's small businesses to help keep folks insured and healthy."

The 30-hour workweek provision under Wisconsin's small employer law is a minimum standard.  Insurers and employer policyholders can agree to offer coverage to employees working fewer than 30 hours if the offer is made to all employees of the employer and is not made in an unfairly discriminatory manner. The bulletin is effective for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance is also urging insurers to work with small employers to provide the option of continuing dental, vision, and prescription drug benefits when those are offered as separate policies. 

A copy of the bulletin is available here. An FAQ document for consumers is available here. An FAQ document for agents and insurers is available her​e.