The Coronavirus Impact, Your Top Questions Answered | PMA The Coronavirus Impact, Your Top Questions Answered | PMA

Your dental practice has been impacted like never before because of COVID-19, we are here to help you through these challenging times.

In these uncertain times, there are a lot of changes that lead to a lot of questions. We have enlisted Alan Hill, CPA, principal, and director of dental services at Rea & Associates, to answer some of the questions you have been asking about unemployment, the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) and worker’s compensation. He has also provided some great resources that are included in this FAQ. If he doesn’t address a question you may have, just contact us after reading this article.

  • Should my dental practice remain open? We recommend keeping the phone lines open for emergency appointments. If needed, have the number transferred to a home or cell. This will enable you to answer questions that your patients might have and also take payments. If your dental practice is not able to take payments online, this might be the time to look into it to ensure you have options available for patients that want to make payments.

    The Ohio Dental Association (ODA) also recommends only seeing patients in an emergency to help minimize the number of people going to the emergency rooms. Make sure to screen your patients and use teledentistry or other remote modalities when possible to minimize the risk of transmitting.

    Finally, please review your inventory and if there are any surplus of supplies that could be used by local hospitals and medical clinics for COVID-19 patients and clinicians to please contact your local Emergency Management Agency.
  • Should I file for unemployment? Yes, if you and your employees have been impacted by COVID-19 and can no longer work, we recommend filling for unemployment now. Benefits during Ohio’s emergency declaration period have changed.

    Unemployment benefits will be available for eligible individuals who are requested by a medical professional, local health authority, or employer to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19, even if they are not actually diagnosed with COVID-19. In addition, the waiting period for eligible Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits will be waived.

    As of March 25, 2020, there was a massive boost to federal unemployment insurance in the proposed stimulus package – expanding eligibility and offering workers an additional $600 a week for four months, on top of what state unemployment programs pay.

    This would indeed be an increase, right now Ohio unemployment benefits are capped at $647/week for someone with 3 dependents or 50% of their average wages whichever is lower.
  • As an owner of a dental practice, what is important to know about the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA)? “Covered employer” is defined differently under EFMLEA than FLMA, all employers with fewer than 500 employees must comply. The ADA has sent a letter of exemption for employers under 50 employees to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor on behalf of dentists.**

**The Labor Department announced that employers with less than 50 employees may be exempted from a provision in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that requires them to provide emergency paid sick leave and expanded medical leave to employees in certain COVID-19 circumstances. This announcement was made on April 1, 2020, and dental practices are included in this exemption. Check out the full details here.

  • The Family First Act will be effective April 1, 2020, how is it applied between now and then? Because the Act is not effective until April 1, 2020, employers should not consider any leave between now and then to be covered by the Act.  Any leave taken between now and the effective date can be pursuant to the employer’s current leave policies (like PTO, etc.).

    Based on the information we currently have available to us, the Act will not apply retroactively, so any leave provided before April 1 will not be subject to reimbursement.  One big caveat is that the government could come out with additional guidance on the Act between now and April 1, which might change things.  But currently, any leave an employee takes between now and April 1 is not covered by the new Act.

    As a reminder, employers with less than 50 employees could be potentially exempt from this and the effective day is tentatively set for April 1, 2020, however, given current pending legislation could be earlier.
  • Is the Sick Leave apply to this stay-at-home order?  Does the employee or dependent have to be sick or potentially sick to be eligible for this sick leave? This is a bit unclear at this time, but based on the information we currently have available to us, the stay-at-home order does not trigger the paid leave under the new Act.  We hope the government will come out with guidance on this in the coming weeks.

    As a reminder, employers with less than 50 employees are exempt from this.
  • What are the standards to dismiss someone who has gotten sick?  We recommend against terminating an employee just because he/she is sick because that could be seen as an interference with the new FMLA rights they could be entitled to on April 1, 2020.

    Additionally, COVID-19 may qualify as a disability under the ADA if it is severe enough and therefore the ADA protections may apply.  This will require a case-by-case assessment.  If an employer is going to lay off employees, it is okay to include sick employees in the layoff so long as those employees weren’t chosen for the layoff just because they are sick.
  • Will the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) allow for a delay of installment payments due to hardship from COVID-19? Yes. Payments for March, April, and May for the current year policy may be deferred until June 1, 2020. At that time, the matter will be reconsidered.
  • What do employees need to know about coverage for workers’ compensation as it relates to COVID-19? If you work in a job that poses a special hazard or risk and an employee contract COVID-19 from the work exposure, then the BWC will allow a claim for workers’ compensation.

    An employee cannot receive pay compensation from BWC if they are quarantined due to COVID-19. However, Governor DeWine has expanded flexibility for Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits during the period of Ohio’s emergency declaration.
  • What changes are there as it relates to employers and health insurance coverage? Employers are permitted to continue covering employees under group policies even if the employee hours may decrease due to COVID-19. In addition, insurers are prohibited from increasing premium rates on a group’s decreased enrollment due.

    Employers are to be given a grace period and can defer payments, interest-free, for up to 60 calendar days.
  • The tax deadline has moved to July 15, 2020, should I still file now? We recommend filing now and not wait for two reasons. Filing now will help you determine your cash flow and better plan for 2020. Waiting too long will not give you enough time to make changes if needed

    We also recommend filling now if you are owed money. That will bring in additional revenue that you may need now.

If we didn’t address a question you currently have, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to help and answer any questions you may have.

The content in this article is based on the best knowledge of non-attorney specialists. Rea & Associates and PMA Practice Transitions do not provide legal advice. You are encouraged to consult with legal counsel of your choice prior to implementing policies and procedures.

Matt Scherer | PMA Practice Transitions | Ohio | Pennsylvania Published by Matthew Scherer on March 26, 2020