The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions survey also found employers increasingly embracing telemedicine services.
Over half of employers have implemented special programs for workers to address the impact of the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, according to a National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalition (NAHPC) survey released Monday morning.
Employers described the variety of approaches taken to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, which has affected all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, and created a severe negative economic impact.
Nearly all companies reported that unessential travel and in-person meetings have been canceled while over 70% of salaried employees and almost 50% of hourly employees are working from home. As a result of the move to working from home, almost 70% of employers have installed telecommunicating policies, including 50% that have mandated it.
Still, survey respondents indicated that workers in some industries, such as finance and insurance, are more adaptable to work from home than those in retail or manufacturing.
"We're faced with a tale of two cities," Michael Thompson, CEO of NAHPC, said in a statement. "While most salaried employees can effectively work from home, the great majority of hourly workers don't have the same flexibility. Where possible employers are moving rapidly to enable a virtual workplace. Where this is not possible, they are working to maintain a certain level of operations and support social distancing. All are looking at how to best mitigate the financial impact for their employees as well as their own bottom line."
Employers that have employees that cannot effectively work from home have faced difficult decisions about how to adjust the business model in the uncertain fate of the outbreak.
Three-out-of-five employers have implemented flex hours, nearly a quarter have temporarily halted operations with pay, and 5% have closed operations without pay. However, nearly a quarter of employers said they are considering plans to close without pay.
The NAHPC survey also found employers increasingly embracing telemedicine services, as copays have been waived for COVID-19 tests.
Two-thirds of employers have waived or considered waiving copays for office visits tied to COVID-19 testing, while 75% have done the same as it relates to telemedicine visits.
Additionally, almost 90% of employers have offered or considered extending 'first dollar coverage' of COVID-19 testing to employees, though only 37% are covering treatment costs for employees.
The survey was released days after a Willis Towers Watson (WTW) analysis found that employers could see healthcare benefit costs rise by 7% due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
WTW estimated that at a 10% infection level, benefit costs could rise by 1% to 3%, while a 30% infection level could see costs rise by 4% to 7%. At the highest rate included in the analysis, a 50% infection level, costs could rise between 5% to 7%
Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.