Round 2 of COVID-19 Legislation Begins

On Tuesday November 17, Governor Evers released another COVID-19 response legislation. The omnibus bill includes several policy proposals that were included the state’s initial COVID-19 bill (2019 Act 185) from earlier this year. In addition, the governor is proposing $541 million in spending to continue the current pandemic response efforts such as COVID-19 testing, contract tracing, capacity support and vaccine distribution.

Assembly Republicans led by Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester) held a press conference hours after the release of the governor’s bill. The Speaker outlined several new policy ideas, including increased testing and contact tracers and unemployment system changes.  In addition, he stated that legislators hope to find bipartisan solutions to address the ongoing pandemic.

Incoming-Senate President Chris Kapenga (R – Delafield), in public statements, seemed less inclined to meet early, but it is still not clear if the legislature will convene before the next legislative session begins in January 2021.

Below are the highlights of provisions included in the governor’s bill (summary and LRB summary):

  • Telehealth: Require that insurers cover all telehealth services that would be covered were the services provided in-person. The requirement runs through December 31, 2021. (Similar provision in 2019 Act 185).
  • Early Refills: Other than controlled substances, reinstates a prohibition on restrictions on early refills through the end of 2021. (Similar provision in 2019 Act 185).
  • Prescription Drug Extension: Allows pharmacists to extend prescription orders – without having to contact the prescriber – by up to 30 days (in effect to the end of 2021). (Similar provision in 2019 Act 185).
  • Testing & Treatment Mandate: Creates a testing for and treatment of (including prescription drugs) COVID-19 insurance mandate, prohibiting cost sharing. (Similar provision in 2019 Act 185).
  • Vaccination Mandate: Creates a COVID-19 vaccination coverage mandate, prohibiting cost sharing.
  • Surprise Billing: Creates a “surprise billing” provision such that during a public health emergency (i.e., any public health emergency, not just the current COVID-19 emergency), an enrollee cannot be charged more for seeing an out-of-network provider (if an in-network provider is not available) for services related to why the emergency was declared; the plan would be required to reimburse the out-of-network provider 250 percent of the Medicare rate and the out-of-network provider may not balance bill the enrollee. This would be in effect until the end of 2021. (Similar provision in 2019 Act 185).
  • State Staffing: Provide the Division of Personnel Management with additional flexibility through 2021, including flexibility for limited-term employees. (Similar provision in Act 2019 Act 185)
  • Worker’s Compensation Benefits: Allow critical workers, including healthcare workers, to claim worker’s compensation benefits related to COVID-19, presuming that they received the illness from their occupation. (Similar provision in 2019 Act 185).
  • In-person Waivers: Allows a “state-entity” to waive in-person appearance requirements through the end of 2021. (Modifies provision in 2019 Act 185).
  • Notarization Flexibility: Allow online notaries to perform online notarization of estate planning documents through the end of 2021.
  • Eviction and Foreclosure Prohibition: Allow DHS to issue an order prohibiting evictions and foreclosures through 2021.
  • Loans Waivers: Authority to waive interest, penalties or payments on governmental loans and debt through the end of 2021.
  • Unemployment Waiting Period: Suspend the one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance through the end of 2021. (Similar provision in 2019 Act 185).
  • UI Program Transfers: Allows DWD Secretary to transfer funds into the Interest and Penalties (I&P) Appropriation. (Corrects provision in 2019 Act 185)
  • Work-Share Temporary Policy Changes: Waive certain parameters related to the Work-Share program through the end of 2021. (Similar provision in 2019 Act 185).
  • Work Search Requirements: Allow DWD to promulgate rules relaxing work search requirements through the end of 2021. (Similar to current emergency rule).
  • SSDI Flexibilities: Allow social security disability (SSDI) recipients to receive concurrent unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Education Waivers: Waive student assessments and school report card requirements for the 2020-21 school year.
  • Rehiring Retirees: Allow rehiring of retired annuitants and ability to reinstate licensure (including people in the last 5 years and people from out of state) through the end of 2021. (Similar provision in 2019 Act 185).