Elena Merino, a benefits broker, is hoping she can help rescue colleagues from COVID-19 paralysis.
Merino, president of The Meridian Group of Alpharetta, Georgia, has come up with some steps that almost any benefits firm can take.
Here’s a look at five things she has done, is doing, or is trying to do.
1. Build relationships with local benefits lawyers and accountants in the good times.
Merino already knows some attorneys, and she has had them help her with writing analyses of all of the new laws and programs coming out, to avoid looking as if she’s trying to give anyone legal advice.
2. Work with legal advisors to develop articles, webinars and other materials explaining the Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act provisions in the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The Meridian Group, for example, began briefing clients on the Families First legislation while it was still in House, before it had even passed into the Senate.
3. Brief employer clients about any relevant new state insurance regulations, orders or guidelines.
Merino’s firm has made sure clients have copies of the directives and other documents sent out by Georgia Insurance Commissioner John King.
4. Tell employer clients about state and federal financial support programs.
Merino is not in the business of providing small business loans, but her clients may need help from loans to get through COVID-19-related business disruptions.
She sent clients an article about how the Small Business Association is working with state governors to provide low-interest loans, for up to $2 million each, to small businesses and nonprofits suffering severe pandemic-related problems.
5. Watch for other new developments — in, for example, the stimulus bill now on the floor of the Senate — and pass that news on, too.
The Senate bill, for example, includes a testing coverage benefits mandate for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19 pneumonia and COVID-19 heart inflammation. The mandate would apply to any employer clients that have self-insured health plans.
Merino said one challenge is keeping track of all of the many bulletins and directives pouring out of state insurance departments, and other state and federal agencies.
Merino hopes to work with other brokers and broker organizations to create a portal that producers can use to post the state and federal directives as they come in.
— Read Keep Calm and Carry On (With Your Practice), on ThinkAdvisor.